Alan Cash Author and Novelist - Official Website

Extract From  The Janus Effect By Alan Cash.
Copyright A.L Cash 2005.
Published by Ylolfa, Talybont, Ceredigion, Wales.
Website www.ylolfa.com

    The Janus Effect is a Science Fiction Novel set in the Britain of 2040. A military dictatorship rules from a flooded London. Political Prisoners are consigned to an island-wide prison on Anglesey.
Meanwhile secret experiments into time are being conducted in tunnels hollowed out by the Nazis in World War Two. Experiments to bring about the return of the British Empire.

One man has penetrated the base, but, branded a terrorist, his memory of the last twenty years has been wiped. He is offered the chance to regain his past if he will give history a few tweaks to give someone- or something- a little more time to prepare....

Going backwards to Birmingham in the 1950's and further back to important turning points in history The Janus Effect is the tale of a future Britain that could too easily be coming true....

Chapter 3 , a part of which is reproduced here, concerns the terrorist Loratu's ( aka Liberty Moss's ) girlfriend/common law wife Veema discovering something very interesting that could be of use to the resistance.

 

CHAPTER 3

Veema.

Veema lay back on the wooden bunk, staring at the ceiling of the tiny white painted cell, considering her situation yet again.

She'd been here, by her reckoning, for at least three weeks, ever since they'd caught her on a raid on a munitions dump to gain much-needed weapons for her group. By that time Loratu had been captured some six months and everyone was beginning to lose heart.  She had had some idea that, as his "common-law wife", she might have been able to rally them, make a better job of trying to find him-better than that  black- clad bitch, anyway.  But she hadn't managed it.

She sat up and moved a damp black curl off her sweaty forehead.  They kept  the light on all  the time and temperature at around twenty five C. It was a typical technique.  They'd stripped her of all her clothes when she'd been brought in and given her, with much sniggering, a short smock in return. In order to cover her eyes she'd torn a strip off the hem at the back. That helped her sleep a bit.

She returned, wretchedly, to thinking about getting a weapon of some kind. The small ventilator grille was too high up the wall for her small stature of one and a half metres.

She couldn't drag the bunk over to it, as it was bolted down. An archway led to a hole in the floor that served as a lavatory.  There was a hand basin with a photoelectric cell controlling the sporadic water spray from a tiny spigot and that was it. Not even a tap to prise off.

Having exhausted that idea again she picked up the strip of cloth and tied it round  the back of her head, blotting out the ever-present camera looking at her unblinkingly from high up in the corner opposite.

She wondered what they would do next. Her eyelids closed over her large soft brown eyes and she saw  again the brutality of Berbek's "medics". 

But through it all the mind block held, so she was unable to give away anything she couldn't remember. At length they had come to a dead stop as, short of killing her, they appeared to have run out of ideas. She hoped she was still too valuable just be killed out of hand. At her last meeting with that  bastard Preston he seemed just as weary  as she was.

Then she had received a visit from a man she'd never seen before.  A man in a white coat whose appearance was, somehow, very difficult to remember. She expected the worst. Some new thing Preston had thought up-but no-all he had done was ask some very ordinary questions, shone a light in her eyes and departed.  Indeed, the only remarkable thing he had done was shake hands with her before he went and told her what a pleasure and an honour it had been to see her.  And she believed he really meant it.

She was just drifting off to sleep  when she heard the tramp  of boots coming up the corridor.She quickly took the scrap of material off her eyes and tied it round her neck. A key turned clumsily in the lock and the door creaked open on unoiled hinges.  A red-faced guard in green uniform came in.

" On your feet you. "

" What is it now? "

" You'll find out " he said, leaning forward and pulling her to her feet with obvious relish.

They marched her quickly down the corridor and up several floors to Preston's office.  The guard knocked deferentially. 

A high-pitched male voice said " Come in."

The guard thrust open the door and propelled Veema into the room with a shove between her shoulder blades, closing the door behind her.

As usual two bright lights either side of the dark figure at the desk made her screw up her eyes.

Directly in front of her was what she feared most. The high black back of a chair. The chair she had been manacled to naked while the voice between the lights directed what should be done to  her.

Her mouth went dry and her heart thudded.  She struggled to stay upright and calm. The floor beneath her feet was damp and slimy, as if slick with sweat.

Then the lights went out.

The ghosts in her vision took  time to clear. She shivered. What new trick did Preston

have in mind for her? But the light gradually came up again, this time from the ceiling in a

warm pearly glow.  For the first time she could see her tormentor.

He sat behind a grey metal desk, his hands lightly clasped in front of him on some files.

He was looking at her expressionlessly over steel rimmed spectacles, his pale face and grey eyes  giving no hint of what was coming.  He licked  his thin lips, looked down and poured himself a glass of water from a carafe.  The slosh and trickle of it made her realize how thirsty she was. Without looking up he pushed it towards her with his forefinger.

" Sit down Miss Price. "

"I'd rather stand. "

" As you wish. It's of no interest to me-but wouldn't you like  this water? "

He looked up, drinking her in. Veema was acutely aware of her appearance. A short thin girl with dirty hair plastered over her scalp, wearing a sweat stained smock ending halfway down her thighs.  She didn't move. 

" How long have you been with us now? " he began, conversationally.

" Too damn long."Her voice sounded high and strained. 

" Enjoying your stay here? "

'Here it comes', thought Veema, '  keep calm. '

" Whether or not- it's about to finish " he said.

That surprised her."You're... letting ... me ... go?" she said, incredulously. 

" Yes.You have ceased to be useful here. That's the only reason I haven't had you terminated."

" Thanks a lot." she said."

Don't thank me. If I had my way ... " He glanced up and down her smock." Well, can't let you out in that state. People will say we haven't looked after you." He opened the topmost file and took out a small slip of yellow paper. "Here is a chit for some clothes. "

He leaned forward and handed it to her. She grasped it unwillingly." I shall miss our little chats," he said, pressing a button on his desk. A guard came in. " Take Miss Price down to the quartermaster on blue level. Goodbye, Veema. I expect we shall meet again . Next time I won't be so pleasant."

The guard escorted her down the corridor into a lift and down five floors. She smiled at him ingratiatingly.  He stared stonily back. 'Not much luck there,then.'she thought.

They arrived outside the quartermaster's office and the guard spoke into a metal grille beside the door.  A tinny voice replied and with a buzz and a click the door opened.  Veema went in and it closed behind her. She looked round.  The guard had not come in with her.

Perhaps things were about to improve. But it was a bit strange.

In front of her was a bare room with nothing in it but a counter and another door behind it.

The beginnings of a plan were forming in her head. The last thing she wanted was just to be marched off the base or whatever she was in. She might learn something useful first. She tried the door behind her. Locked, as expected. She looked around to see if there were any surveillance cameras. Nothing. So far, so good. She hitched the hem of her smock up a bit higher.

" Hello? Is there anybody there? Can we get some service in this place? "

She heard something scrape back  on concrete and footsteps echoed towards the door beyond the counter. A man emerged in the ubiquitous green uniform. 

" Yes? "

" I have a chit for some clothes, " she said moving towards him, holding it out, watching his eyes fasten lasciviously on her.  Then,  with the courage of desperation, she grabbed him by his tie, pulled him forward and, before he could cry out, chopped him expertly on the side of the neck with her hand. She let him go and  he hit the top of the counter, slithering backwards behind it onto the floor with a satisfying thump.

She pulled herself over the top of the counter and ran to the half open door expecting to be challenged it any moment .Beyond it she could see orderly ranks of uniforms, helmets and armaments stretching away from her under the cold glare of strip lighting.

She ran down the line of uniforms looking for mottled green camouflage roughly her size. She found a jacket and trousers that would do, pulled them on, and stood panting.  She hadn't thought much further than this as she didn't think  she would get this far.

There must be an exit somewhere-probably at the far end of this vast place. She started to move off and stepped on something gritty.

'Boots-haven't got any boots' she thought.

She moved warily down the alley and came across stacks of high sided black boots with thick black soles.  No time to look for socks. Got  to find the exit.

She rounded a corner and came to a dead end, blocked by dark green doors with the words "Restricted Access " stencilled on them in white paint. ' Have I got time to look? This could be interesting', she thought. She made a snap decision. She tried the handle. Locked.

No surprise.

She looked around and found a piece of metal that would do as a lever, fitted it between the leaves of the doors and heaved. With agonising slowness the right half of the door buckled and the lock gave.  She put down the lever slowly to avoid it clanking on the concrete.

Behind the doors was not a room, but a cupboard.

Inside, on shelves, were neatly folded off -white garments of some kind.  She pulled one out. It was of a stretchy, very closely woven material with a metallic feel. There was an integral hood-not even that-it would cover the whole head with just eye slits and a sort of grille to breathe through. It was like a one-piece scuba-diving outfit, with hands and feet attached.

There was a plastic seal that stretched all the way up from the crotch to the forehead. There were boots of the same off- white colour on the bottom shelf. On the top shelf were what looked like power packs attached to belts, four to a belt, again off white with short leads hanging from them.

Hanging on to the shelf and standing on tiptoe off the bottom shelf she got one down without dropping it. It was quite heavy.

Afraid of what might happen, but intrigued, she pressed a switch on one of the packs.

The colour of the packs and belt flickered and settled into a peculiar amalgam of the green cabinet and her uniform.  She pushed the belt further back onto the middle shelf and the green of the cabinet became more pronounced. She pulled it out into the open and it settled into a rough approximation of its surroundings.  This was a find and no mistake! She had never seen anything like it. What a prize to bring back to the group- replicated a whole army could hide itself!

She didn't have time to see whether it would stretch over her jacket and trousers.  She quickly pulled them off and unlaced her boots, stuffing them into the cabinet.   She pulled on the strange one-piece suit and attached the belt. She found a place where the leads ought to plug in and pressed them home. She was about to turn  the switch on again, when she noticed that a needle in  a panel on the nearest pack was in the red sector. One of the other four  was also flickering in the same area. If it meant that, together, all four were only charged up to half of maximum, or less. She hoped it would be enough.  She would have to be sparing once she was out of here.

She pressed the switch. Instantly she was enveloped by an unpleasant tingling feeling. She felt hot and suffocating and her vision seemed  to swim. She peeled back the headpiece.  The rest of her had taken on the colour of her surroundings.

She was still deciding what to do next when electronic alarms awoke with deafeningly.

 Doors slammed somewhere, and she  heard the sound of studded boots running on concrete.

Shouting was coming towards her. She must get out of this dead end. She ran up the aisle and doubled back down the next one which seemed to end short of a brick wall. She pulled the headpiece roughly over her head and flattenned herself to the wall, spread-eagling against it, facing down the aisle.

A soldier came running towards her. She closed her eyes and tried not to breathe.The footsteps slowed and stopped. She dared a look from beneath lowered lids. He was looking right at her. She tensed, waiting for him to call the others. He seemed to hesitate, peering forward, then he turned away. 

" Nothing here, Sarge! "

She couldn't hear the reply, but he ran off away from her.

Cautiously she looked from left to right. There was a door over in the far corner to her right. As quietly as possible she made her way over to it. She tried to turn the knob but it wouldn't budge.

She looked about her. High above was a catwalk and over it a darkened window.  How to get up there? Further along, about thirty metres away  was a ladder, clamped to the wall.

She was just beginning to move towards it when  she heard a shout.

" Sarge! I've found something! "

" What is it? "

" Special weapons locker's been broken open, sir! "

" Shit! If she's learned how to operate it she could be anywhere. If she moves there will be a slight shimmer in the surroundings if you're near enough,  looking in the right direction. Look for that."

She ran for the ladder and began to climb, her arms aching more and more at each heave up the widely spaced rungs. At last, panting and feeling sick, she flopped on to the metal catwalk - and the front power packs clanged on the surface.  The sounds seemed magnified  this close to the ceiling, as it echoed around the  huge hall.

Shouts followed immediately and she could see the hunters come pounding towards her.

She risked raising herself and looked towards the window.

" There she is! "

A volley of gunfire blazed over the top of her, showering her in brick dust. Their aim was too acute.  But now, as she stretched out  her arm, she realized the dust had made her slightly more visible.

Already one soldier was climbing the ladder.  She got up into a crouching run and made for the window. Below she could see a floodlit yard . Parked  lorries with tarpaulin covered roofs were marhalled in it. There was one beneath the window with its motor running.

Another burst of gunfire smashed the window.  Below, the lorry's engine  roared as it began to back away. It was now or never. Still crouching she bashed the remaining shards from the frame, tucked herself together and fell out sideways  onto the roof  of the lorry.The canvas absorbed most of the impact of her fall, but  the ribs supporting it momentarily winded her.  As the vehicle swayed she dug her fingers into the material and spread herself face down.

The lorry ground out of the yard just as she heard shouts and other vehicles starting up to give chase. She raised her head and saw she was travelling through darkened countryside. Defoliated trees stood gaunt against the last rays of a blood red setting sun.

As the lorry slowed down for a particularly tight bend she  tensed and rolled off the roof as she been taught countless times, landing in long grass beside the road. She got up and limped into a ditch just as the first of the pursuing vehicles bellowed past in a splatter of mud, horns blaring, headlights full on. Another passed packed with troops.

As they disappeared round the bend she checked the power in the packs. It was already alarmingly low.  She switched it off of and felt the tingle disperse.  Blotting out the pain from her bruised body as well as she could, she began to half -walk, half- run across the field that bordered the road. She had no clear idea where she was going, but  she knew she must put as much distance between her and her pursuers whilst darkness lasted.

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