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Sherdan’s Prophecy: Chapter 33

The nightmares had greatly diminished since Anya had been given her pet, Antonio. Sherdan had surprised her with the gift but it had been the perfect choice. It had almost torn down her guard completely and she’d had to remind herself that Sherdan had tortured her for several days.

Several time now he had said that he both loved her and wanted her to leave if it would make her happy, but no matter how many times he said it she couldn’t decide if she believed him. His words were still as fresh to her as the moment he’d said them.

Anya wasn’t sure how she felt about him either. She had considered leaving several times recently before she did something she regretted and got herself in too deep.

Every time she told herself she was leaving she’d have the same dream again about saving Sherdan’s life. Thankfully, it didn’t make her throw up any more.

God evidently wanted her to stay. She hoped she could bring herself to leave when it finally came down to it. The longer she stayed the more she felt attached to Sherdan and his country’s fate.

There had been one moment when she’d almost allowed Sherdan right under her skin. She knew that couldn’t happen. He wasn’t why she was here and she would have to leave at some point soon. She couldn’t have a relationship even if she wanted one.

Anya sat down with a thud, surprising herself at thinking seriously about being with Sherdan. Before today she’d denied any desire for anything of the sort. She’d put any feelings down to Stockholm syndrome.

Her thoughts were so muddled. She couldn’t think of anything to do but pray and hope she could leave soon. Her feelings could be worked through in her own home and church, safe from Sherdan’s unhealthy affect on her.

She absent-mindedly stroked the kitten beside her as she prayed. Strength and focus would be important until her task here was done, even if she still didn’t know what that was.

Her karate lessons were going well. Nathan had taught her a lot in a short space of time. They’d gone through all the blocks so many times that Nathan now struggled to land a blow. She had then begun learning attacks, but she wasn’t as good at those yet. Her punches were very weak, although her kicks weren’t too bad.

Nathan had suggested she try sparring with her ability turned on. In her half way stage she’d be invisible but be able to strike back at an assailant if needed. If she thought she was going to be hit she could move into the full state of her ability and any blows would go through her.

She’d turned down his offer to practice this as she’d not felt completely comfortable fighting him naked, even if he wouldn’t be able to see anything. Also, she didn’t know if she would be able to keep herself invisible and concentrate on karate at the same time. His suggestion had merit, however, so she’d spent a further hour each day practising alone whilst invisible.

Another Sunday passed, with her still away from her church, and another week began, leaving Anya feeling down again. She knew she’d need to leave soon. She finally felt like her time here was coming to an end. It still felt like something needed to happen first but, as the week began, her feelings of expectancy grew.

She could hardly focus on her karate Tuesday morning and did very little in the way of research for Sherdan. The public opinion on him hadn’t changed much lately anyway. People mostly thought he was amazing. The houses he’d robbed people of were largely forgotten already.

He joined her earlier than normal that evening but looked even more tired than he usually did. He smiled at her and went straight to his laptop. She came and sat nearby.

“So what’s the plan this evening?” she asked, expecting him to suggest something as he had for the last week.

“I’m too busy this evening. I didn’t get enough of my work done.”

“Why ever not? You’ve been gone since seven?”

“I… Hitchin had me in the lab a lot of the day.” She raised her eyebrows, “I needed some tests… it seems my ability has disappeared. Hitchin is the only other person who knows, however.”

“I won’t say a word. How will this affect your country?”

“Hopefully it won’t. It seems to just be me, and it also appears that there is no discernible scientific reason, but we don’t have the results from all the tests yet.”

“Oh. I will let you work then.” She got up to go, feeling sorry for him.

“Please stay? At least until dinner. Tell me about your day.”

“Nothing really happened. I’ve been practising my karate and my ability but not much else.”

“Keep practising, it’s good for you.”

“What kind of work do you have to do?” she enquired.

“I have to work out some trade agreements with some of the countries that have asked to trade. I don’t want to give them any of our advanced technology so I’m having to come up with other things we have to offer. Trade will be important to us; with some of them at least.” Sherdan looked thoughtful for a moment. Anya thought it sounded rather tedious but let Sherdan continue.

“Also, a few countries want embassies here. Finally, there’s the ball in three days.”

“I’d like to come to that.”

“I’ve already said. If you are staying then I think you should come.”

“I’m not sure I am staying and even if I were, I have no dress.” Anya got up and walked away to inspect the books. She’d looked over them so many times before but the familiar names soothed her agitated mind. A part of her considered saying she’d stay just to go to the ball but she couldn’t lie.

She lost herself in thought until Sherdan made her jump. He had stopped working and come up behind her. He took her right hand in his and turned her to face him.

“I want you to stay. Be on my arm at the ball, in front of my whole country.” She looked away and then back again. “Stay.”

“I don’t know if I can.”

“Do you want to?”

“No… Well, maybe. I can’t decide.” She couldn’t lie but hated that he’d asked her. “I have things I need to do back home.”

“So do them and come back. I’ll even drive you myself.”

“It’s not that simple.”

Before either of them could say anything else Anne popped her head through the doorway and told them dinner was ready. Anya immediately tore her hand away from Sherdan and went into the dining room. It gave her a moment to compose herself.

She’d come so close to giving in and saying she’d come back. He made her head spin and she was very grateful when he had to carry on working after they had eaten. It gave her some respite to his attentions.

She deliberately fetched her bible and sat reading it in the same room as him. It wasn’t something she’d done before while being in the same room as him. He’d made such a mockery of her beliefs that she hadn’t wanted to draw any attention to it, but it seemed like a good idea now.

The whole evening Sherdan said very little. His work absorbed his attention and she often looked up to see him frowning over it. A part of her wanted to help him. His work load was obviously too much but she’d already got herself far too attached to him and his country to offer any more help. Enough was enough.

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Sherdan’s Prophecy: Chapter 32

Anya didn’t leave her room for breakfast while Sherdan was about the following morning. He went over to the compound with a sad weight on his heart. He’d have to hope she was more open again that evening. Women were so fickle.

There was plenty of work to do, however. The shelters at all the newest occupied houses were being built and installed. Sherdan also expected some kind of response from the UN after Anya’s news the day before.

He had a live link to the BBC news just after six that evening so he could get a full days work in before he needed to be back in his own study. He hoped Anya wouldn’t stray out of her room while it was happening. There wouldn’t be time to tell her about it before hand.

The morning passed uneventfully and he soon took a break to grab some lunch. Hitchin joined him, a little unexpectedly.

“I know you don’t like being studied Sherdan, but we really need to do some more tests. People are beginning to wonder why you don’t come and identify the new abilities in the growing number of residents who still don’t know what they can do.” Sherdan sighed but knew his friend was only telling the truth.

“I’ll come next week, I promise.”

“Very well.”

Hitchin stayed where he was sat despite not saying any more. Sherdan waited, not sure he wanted Hitchin to say anything else but not wanting to offend him either.

“How’s everything going with Miss Price? Has she agreed to marry you yet?”

“Not yet. I think things have improved but something holds her back. Her beliefs I think.”

“Hmmm… that would be tricky. Can you not get her to see that it’s in her best interests to do as she’s told?”

“She’s a headstrong girl,” Sherdan said, “I’m sure it won’t be much longer. If anyone can succeed I can.”

“I’m sure she’ll see sense soon as well. After all, it’s a definite result.” Hitchin finally got up and left. Sherdan hadn’t been entirely truthful with him. He didn’t want Anya to just ‘come to her senses’ but to actually love him. He wanted more than he’d ever wanted from a woman before.

The first conversation they’d had regarding Hitchin’s vision sprang to mind. His presumption of winning Anya had been so arrogant. He thought he’d be impossible to refuse and hadn’t really known what it was to love someone. He was learning.

He’d just wanted her to do as he demanded but it no longer seemed enough to have a woman do as he wished. Now he wanted a woman who really though similar things as important as he did, who wanted to be at his side.

Sherdan went back to work. Hitchin hadn’t cheered him up at all. Instead Hitchin had only shown him how different falling in love had made him. He threw himself into his work with more energy than normal, practically making Graham’s job obsolete. Two hours later he’d given himself a headache.

Shortly after four that afternoon a phone call came through for him. The UN had decided to approve the request for recognition as a separate country. While officially, the Queen of England owned the land, it was an old law and the UN thought there was enough weight behind Sherdan’s request to disregard that problem.

They added that they felt it was important Sherdan not just take any more land, however, saying it only weakened his political position with his neighbours. Sherdan didn’t particularly care. He had what he wanted. The UK would be forced to treat him with more respect than they had recently.

Less than ten minutes after he got off the phone to the UN they announced their decision publicly. The whole world knew he had succeeded. Sherdan immediately addressed the whole country.

“I have brilliant news for you all. Utopia has officially been recognised and accepted as a member of the United Nations. In celebration of this, there will be a street party and ball a week today. Congratulations.”

There was a sound of applause from the command room when Sherdan took his finger off the intercom button. This was another very important day for his country. So far, with the exception of Anya, everything was pretty much going to plan.

Sherdan had another phone call before he could do anything else. The President of America, who had ignored him after his first attempt at opening diplomatic relations, now wanted to speak with him.

“I’ve only a moment but I wanted to say congratulations on achieving membership in the UN. I think we should talk about trade and other such things between our countries.”

“Of course, Al, I’m sure we can discuss things like that over the coming weeks. Shall I have someone get in contact with one of your cabinet to begin discussions?”

“That sounds good. I look forward to hearing from you.”

Sherdan smiled as he put the phone down. He was highly unlikely to trade them any of the things they probably wanted, but they didn’t need to know that yet.

Many similar calls rolled in from various diplomatic figures across the world. All of them congratulatory with an undertone of visitation or trade. He had something they all wanted.

He had to cut short all the calls and request Graham take any more as he headed back to his house for his live news interview. He’d only just sat down where Anne had set up his satellite link when he was introduced.

“Sherdan Harper, you’ve become quite the icon today. How does it feel to gain recognition as the leader of a new country?”

“It feels very good considering the opposition we’ve faced. We’ve also been working hard on relations with other countries and are in the beginning of all sorts of agreements with many of them.”

“What do you plan on doing next?”

“It depends on the British government really. At this point we’d like to negotiate a ceasefire with the UK and concentrate on forming a working political system. We will continue to retaliate as we have been if things stay as they are, however.”

“Do you intend to give the homes you’ve taken back?”

“Possibly. Some of them. Definitely not all. A lot are now inhabited by my own citizens. As I said, I wish to negotiate a ceasefire and giving land back is something I expect to be a part of that.”

“And what about the soldiers that are considered ‘missing in action’?”

“All of them are safe and will be allowed to return home as soon as we’re at peace with the UK.”

“Do you intend to divulge any of your technology now?”

“We intend to keep as much of it as possible to ourselves. For the most part, we just want to get on with our lives in peace.”

“Thank you again Dr Harper.” Sherdan nodded before he was cut off. He looked up to see Anya in the doorway. She’d been listening to the whole thing. She smiled.

“So are you a Prime Minister or a King?” she asked. He smiled and chuckled.

“Neither, yet. I have my views on the best form of government. You already know about that, however.”

“I do. I happen to agree with them in principle.”

“Only in principle?” He noticed she had her kitten curled up in her arms again.

“I’m not convinced you’d be as benevolent as required.”

“What would you prefer to be?” he asked, changing the subject back to her first statement.

“I don’t understand.”

“I want you to be my wife. Which would you prefer? Queen perhaps?”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“I can make you anything you want to be right now.”

“The only thing I want is to be free.” Her eyes flashed in anger. He shook his head.

“I’m not trying to upset you Anya. I love you. I want you to be happy.” She sat down, all the anger dissipated from her. She let Antonio go and watched him play on the floor for a moment.

“Can I come to the party and ball then?”

“You can, if you are staying. It would be dangerous for you to be seen with me and then to leave here.”

“I don’t see how.”

“It just would Anya. Please can we not argue about everything?” She looked away from him. He’d upset her yet again, but he felt hurt too and she never seemed to see that.

“I’m sorry. I don’t really want to argue either. I’m just fed up of being stuck here.”

“No one is keeping you here. If you’re really not happy with me then please leave and go somewhere you are.” She turned her face back towards him. A tear slowly ran down her left cheek. It pained him to see her like that.

“I can’t leave. I’m… I don’t even know if I want to. I just feel like I’m trapped in limbo. I can’t live properly here and I don’t feel like I can leave.”

“I don’t understand what’s forcing you to stay.” Sherdan continued to watch her cry. “I want you to stay and be my wife, but above that I want you to be happy, wherever you are. Will you let me try and make you happy here, at least?”

She wiped away her tears and shrugged. He got up, went to her and took her by the hands, pulling her to her feet. As soon as she was standing he embraced her in the biggest hug he had ever given anyone and didn’t let go for some minutes.

When they finally parted she appeared calm again and even gave him a small smile. He took her hand and led her to the sitting room. He went to the kitchens and got Anne to bring their dinner through to them there.

Having meals in the dining room was something he normally insisted upon but lately he had been slack. He wanted Anya to feel relaxed more than he cared about such concepts any more.

He kept conversation focused on small things, like up coming films, while they ate. By the time they’d finished dessert she seemed a lot brighter again. She evidently liked talking about films and actors. She knew much more about them than he did. He didn’t usually have time for them, although he enjoyed them when he did.

After dinner the topic progressed to books which had been made into films. Sherdan felt on more familiar ground. He often read, especially since purchasing a kindle.

They talked for ages, comparing their opinions. She preferred the Narnian books to the films. He preferred ‘Lord of The Rings’ as a book and she as the films. There wasn’t much they agreed on, as usual, but it was an amicable conversation.

The ended their evening together much happier than they had began it. Sherdan felt relief when Anya left him to sleep, although he still felt confused about her indecision. She acted like she didn’t want to be here but didn’t leave, even when offered the opportunity.

For the next few days Sherdan avoided all serious topics of conversation with Anya. He didn’t think it would do either of them any good. She allowed Sherdan to get closer to her again but if it felt like they might kiss she soon retreated. No matter how hard he tried he couldn’t get past that final wall she’d put up.

There were no more attacks on Utopia either and diplomatic relations were beginning with many countries. Although, the UK had not spoken up yet. Sherdan had called the Prime Minister again a couple of times but, just like Anya, the walls were still up. The army still patrolled all the borders and they still had an active arrest warrant out on him.

There was nothing Sherdan could do but wait and keep trying, hoping both Anya and the Uk would thaw soon.

Sherdan’s Prophecy: Chapter 31

The smile plastered on Sherdan’s face said everything as he waited for Anya to come back. He’d just told Anne and had a small picnic thrown together to put in his car. Mostly wine and nibbles. He’d also informed his security that they were going out.

He didn’t have to wait too long before Anya came back and he led her to his personal car. He had a two seated Jaguar that he used to drive for fun when his country wasn’t so blocked off. It had stood in his garage ever since. Finally it would get some use.

Sherdan opened the door for Anya to get in. The small picnic basket was already in the boot along with a blanket, for him to surprise her with later. As he thought of this his grin grew even wider.

Nathan activated the tunnel switch for them from the security desk and Sherdan drove them down his escape route and out into the heart of a Bristol suburb. Neither of them said anything until they were out on the road.

“Have we just illegally crossed a country border?” Anya asked.

“Yes. I suppose we have. Does it bother you?”

“I’m not sure. I know it ought to but it feels more… adventurous, than wrong.”

Sherdan nodded. He could hardly believe his luck with Anya the last two days.

Since he’d decided to try and convince her of his feelings the more traditional way she’d been increasingly more cooperative. It had been a very easy two days so far, although he hadn’t actually finished his work for the day. Once he’d had this idea, he had dropped everything and would need to return to it later.

He drove towards Bath and then slightly south into a quiet little village called Southstoke, before parking his car and helping her out. As he pulled the blanket and basket out of the boot Anya gasped.

“When did you get those?” she asked.

“While you were in your room. Now, I think it’s this way… I’ve got a torch. Here, do you want to light the way?” Anya took the torch Sherdan offered.

“Where are we going?”

“There’s a little look out that’s very pretty, either night or day. It’s not far but well worth visiting.” She nodded and walked with Sherdan, lighting the path for both of them.

They walked through a kissing gate onto a farmyard track that led off and up hill. After less than five minutes walking, Sherdan veered off through an open metal gate.

The trees on that side had opened up, showing them that they were high up on the side of one of Bath’s hills, overlooking a valley.

He led her around a mound in the grass to a semicircular stone bench built into the hillside. Rather than sitting on the cold stone, he spread the blanket on the ground in front. After positioning the basket within his reach he sat down and lent against the bench.

Anya was staring out at the night in front of them. It was a clear night so a full set of stars could be seen. He waited for her to finish drinking in the view. When she turned to see where he was, he patted the blanket beside him. She smiled and sat down.

“What if someone comes and recognises you?” Anya asked.

“It shouldn’t be too busy here. The chances are slim even if anyone comes along.”

“Good. I’d hate for you to get arrested.” Sherdan didn’t know what to say and reached for the wine and glasses. He poured some for both of them without even asking if she wanted any. He made sure he only half filled his own glass. He didn’t want any accidents when he drove her later.

They sat drinking the wine and enjoying the food. They didn’t eat a lot but it was nice to pick at the grapes, cheese bites and chocolate covered strawberries.

“Thank you for not leaving yet. I think my life would be all work and no play if it wasn’t for you.”

“Then I am glad to be of assistance,” she replied. “You do work very hard.”

“I have citizens to look after. They’re counting on me to make their lives better.”

“You really want to help them?”

“Of course. I want to make the world better. I know you don’t like all my methods but I do have my reasons.”

“I know. I understand more than when I arrived. I’m sorry I was so awkward the first few weeks.” Sherdan almost choked on his wine in shock. An apology was totally unexpected.

He poured her some more wine to recover and looked out at the sky. It occurred to him that she didn’t know his power had disappeared roughly the same time as hers had appeared, but he couldn’t bring himself to say anything.

“Have you been practising your ability at all?” he asked, trying to lead them to the subject.

“A little. I can now mostly control switching between the two states, being just invisible and also being able to pass through things. I can’t keep it up for too long though; I have to concentrate.”

“Does that mean you can suddenly appear again?”

“Yes, usually just after an hour has passed.”

“That’s not bad. Many of the residents struggle to use their powers so long so soon into their training.”

“Really?” Sherdan nodded and noted the look of satisfaction on her face. “I’m also learning Karate. Nathan’s teaching me.”

“Good. With your ability that’s a useful thing to learn.”

“You approve?”

“Very much. It will help you keep safe, especially if you do leave.”

“Nathan says I’m picking it up quickly.” She beamed. He was pleased. She’d found something to amuse herself with while he was gone.

The more she did that she enjoyed, the more likely she would stay. It would take years for karate to be beneficial to her in a real situation, but he wasn’t going to burst her excited bubble.

Sherdan snapped out of his thoughts when he noticed her shivering. She’d finished her glass of wine so he swallowed the last gulp in his and began packing everything back up. He didn’t want her to catch a cold.

Anya lit the way back as soon as they were ready to leave and they were soon back at the car. He felt a little exhilarated from the danger of being out on British soil but they’d seen no one the entire time, not even a dog walker or two.

“Thank you,” Anya said as Sherdan started up the car. “I really liked that place.”

“You’re welcome. It’s one of my favourite. I almost considered setting up Utopia in Bath but it wasn’t practical enough. Bristol had so many more things in it’s favour.”

“Well hopefully soon you can have all this silly war stopped and be allowed back here.”

“We shall see. It may never be possible.” They lapsed into a silence which lasted all the way back to the house. Normally Sherdan didn’t like silence but it felt different with Anya. He felt comfortable being quiet in her presence. She said a lot with her body language and, at the moment, she was very smiley and content.

They walked back into the study and he found himself hugging her. He said goodnight as she yawned into her hand. She wished him the same then pattered off to leave him to his work.

It had only just gone eleven so he wouldn’t be as late to bed as he had been most of the nights recently. He would need to push his thoughts of Anya out of his head, however, as they would be very distracting. She’d made him a very happy man that evening and given him hope again.

When he picked his laptop up he found an email from Hitchin. He’d looked over Sherdan’s MRI and not found anything wrong. He wanted to do more tests, as Sherdan expected, but he was beginning to think it was just fatigue stunting the ability. At the least it was the most plausible explanation so far.

Sherdan spent the next few hours planning the growth of his country and how they would build bomb-shelters for the new homes. Not all the latest residents had somewhere safe to go if more soldiers were air-dropped in.

He also briefly looked at the new abilities. He had a small team working on coming up with some kind of air defence which kept planes out of his air space but didn’t harm anyone.

At two in the morning he went to bed. He had to be in the command room at an earlier time the following day. He really hoped he’d get some kind of lie-in at some point soon. He wouldn’t survive on five hours or less sleep each night for much longer.

The next two days were a blur for Sherdan. He’d contacted the UN again to try and get them to recognise his country. There still wasn’t anything which gave an indication either way. The European diplomats were still discussing things in their emergency meeting.

Sherdan hadn’t done any more tests yet, preferring to spend time with Anya and Antonio, who were now inseparable. The little kitten went with her from room to room and curled up with her or encouraged her to play whenever she was still.

He’d thanked Nathan for his ideas as well as teaching Anya the martial arts. So far the combination of time spent with both men and the kitten was having a good impact on her. She had been smiling a lot more and she’d told Sherdan she’d had two nights in a row without nightmares.

He hadn’t managed to tell her about his ability disappearing yet and he hadn’t wanted to bring up her faith since he’d called her closed. He didn’t want to argue with her now that everything had improved so much.

There hadn’t been any attacks on Utopia either, which was unexpected. He hoped it meant a step forward in his plan, but the Prime Minister hadn’t returned his last two phone calls so Sherdan couldn’t tell for sure yet.

Anya greeted him very enthusiastically on Thursday evening when he arrived back home, hugging him as he walked into the study. Neither of them had eaten yet, despite it being after seven so he led her through to the dining room before she could say anything to him about her day. He noticed Antonio got up and padded silently after them.

“There was lots about Utopia in the news today,” Anya blurted out, practically bouncing in her chair with excitement.

“What was said about us?”

“The European Union have decided we’re not a threat and have advised the United Kingdom to stand down and negotiate.” She beamed. Sherdan didn’t know whether to feel more pleased that the country was making progress or that Anya had said ‘we’ and included herself as part of the country.

“That’s brilliant news. That should make the Prime Minister think twice.”

“On top of that, UN members have started to speak out and say Utopia should be considered a country.”

“Good. Hopefully we’ll get official recognition soon then.”

Anya told Sherdan everything else she’d learnt that day while they ate. She’d spent most of the day on the net and had a whole wealth of information. He couldn’t help being impressed.

“When are you going to let the world know about your abilities?” she asked as they want back to the sitting room.

“Soon, but not until we’re established as a country.” He sat down at his usual end of the sofa and waited for Anya to join him. She picked up Antonio and plonked herself down right next to him instead of the opposite end of the sofa. He put his arm up on the back of the sofa behind her in response.

They watched some TV like that for the next hour or so. Sherdan didn’t want to do or say anything that might make Anya move away. He liked having her relaxed and so close to him.

When there wasn’t anything left on TV either of them wanted to watch, Anya flicked it off. His arm was still on the back of the sofa.

“What would you like to do, we still have a few hours?” Anya asked.

“I’d like to show you something, if you’re interested. I’ve got a particular opera I like on video. It’s not as good as seeing it performed but since I have to be careful going out it will have to do.”

“Sounds wonderful.” Sherdan didn’t hesitate to get up and find the relevant disc. He put it on and returned to his position beside her.

He’d picked another opera knowing how emotional it had made her seeing the last one. She’d been a delight to spend the evening with afterwards as well. Hopefully he could recreate the atmosphere this time too.

The opera was Madame Butterfly; very sad but hopefully easy for her to relate to. It had the desired effect and Anya’s eyes weren’t dry by the end. Sherdan handed her a tissue as he pulled his arm a little closer around her.

“I’m sorry, the music was just so moving,” she said once she had dried her eyes.

“Don’t apologise. That’s why it’s one of my favourites. It makes the very depths of a person respond.”

“It’s beautiful.”

“I’m very glad you liked it.” He looked down into her upturned face and held her gaze. They smiled at each other before she dipped her eyes down. He could sense her nervousness but she didn’t pull away or even turn her face from him. He hesitated. He wanted to kiss her and he thought in that moment she might finally be receptive but, now it came to it, he felt unsure of himself.

Anya got up and picked up Antonio again. It took all Sherdan’s self restraint not to swear out loud. He’d missed his chance.

“I should get some sleep, it’s late.” Anya smiled half-heartedly and quickly left the room. It had only just gone midnight and was about an hour before she had been going to bed recently.

He stayed sat where he was for a few minutes wondering what had gone wrong. Maybe he’d been too quick. It hadn’t been long since he’d first started trying to put the effort in with Anya again. He resolved to go a little slower but he definitely wasn’t giving up yet.

Sherdan sighed and fetched his laptop to carry on working. He had yet another email from Hitchin reminding him to come in for more tests and informing him of all the new abilities that had developed. As usual, he wrote all the new names in his book.

The list of enhanced people was growing nicely again and there hadn’t been a single death lately. Admittedly, they’d been a lot more careful about who they gave the enzyme too. Having a much larger pool of people to accept from they’d been able to reject any they thought might die.

Sherdan ignored the nag for tests and went about the rest of his work. He was doing a live TV broadcast the following day from his study.

He still didn’t intend to reveal the abilities and enzyme but lots of news teams wanted to interview him about taking more land and sneaking in so many more people. Utopia was completely unstoppable and not a single person had been harmed during the entire war.

There was also all the soldiers they had locked up. They still lived in the cells at the guard buildings he had dotted all over the land. The cells were almost full but, so far, no more soldiers had attacked.

Something would have to be done with them soon, however, several had started trying to escape. While none had succeeded, escapees would tarnish his otherwise perfect reputation.

Sherdan dealt with as much work as he could manage before his eyelids drooped and he caught himself falling asleep on the sofa. He shut down his laptop and got up. His thoughts automatically returned to Anya. He really felt a little lost concerning her and wasn’t used to feeling this way where women were concerned.

Sherdan’s Prophecy: Chapter 30

Anya hadn’t known what to make of Sherdan that evening. Her heart had skipped a beat when he’d asked to see her artwork and two more when he’d requested a portrait. She’d almost said yes before it occurred to her that, with a possible case of Stockholm syndrome, incorporating him into her artwork would be bad for her

She hoped he accepted her excuse. It had only been half true. She wasn’t very practised at painting or drawing people. Practice would be good for her but she didn’t think Sherdan would appreciate it if it wasn’t really good. She didn’t like that kind of pressure.

She felt her muscles ache and complain as she climbed into bed. She’d had a second martial arts lesson with Nathan that morning. He’d insisted she was picking it up quickly. He went over all the blocking he’d taught her the day before and followed it with some new moves. Her fitness let her down, however.

The following day’s lesson was similar, although thankfully she ached less than the previous two days when she was released from her lesson. She put it mostly down to getting a better nights sleep than she had for a while. She’d been thinking of her art before bed, thanks to Sherdan, and it gave her the emotional release she needed.

She’d almost had to wake him again that morning as he’d overslept his alarm for the second day running. Something inside her knew that wasn’t like him. He had been working too hard lately and couldn’t keep it up. She felt sorry for him.

The second request he’d made of her bounced into her head. He’d been very interested in what she’d seen on the news. She could keep watching and reading to find him info. It would help him make informed decisions but it wasn’t helping enough to make her feel like she might be doing something wrong.

She took his laptop through to the sitting room and turned the TV on. She’d have the twenty-four hour news channel in the background while she read through the online news report. If she finished that she’d start reading relevant blogs by influential people.

Anya felt really good when she’d made several pages of notes a few hours later. The news was full of reports on the influx of residents to Utopia and Sherdan’s seemingly unstoppable progress. Even the retaliatory attacks were considered a waste of time by the news in general. All they did was provoke Sherdan.

At noon, Anya watched as Sherdan’s people expanded their territory again in response to the attempted invasion the night before. As the next few hours of events went by, the news team began interviewing people. Almost everyone was suggesting that the army stand down and negotiations should begin.

To Anya’s surprise, the European union were planning an emergency meeting for the following day. Sherdan hadn’t applied to them for recognition within Europe, just to the UN. So far they UN board had not given any indication either way.

It gave her a greater sense of purpose to be doing something with her time and she found the day passed much faster than they had been. She’d enjoyed finding out the public’s opinion on Sherdan. He had a lot of support among the general population but a lot of politicians didn’t like him.

She had to eat dinner alone, as she had often done recently, but she was heading back to the sitting room to continue her work when Sherdan arrived back.

“Good evening,” she said as she walked towards him. She stopped as she noticed he was carrying something small in his arms.

“Good evening. I have something for you, to help with the loneliness.” Sherdan held out the tiny little ginger kitten towards her. She gently took it from him as it mewled at her.

“I think this is the fluffiest kitten I have ever seen,” she said, unable to help but smile.

“You like it then?” She nodded, “Good. I hoped you would. When someone said this little fellow needed a home I immediately thought of you.”

“Thank you. He’s beautiful.” She kissed the top of the kitten’s head and stroked it. It elicited a second meow before it began to wriggle in her hands. She gently lowered him to the ground and let him go.

“There you go. Now you can explore your new home.” The kitten gently took a few steps forward, sniffing at the unfamiliar surroundings.

“What do you want to call him?” Sherdan asked as they watched him explore.

“I… I’m not sure…” she looked thoughtful. “Antonio. The guy who voiced ‘puss-in-boots’ was Antonio.”

“Very well. Antonio is your gift. If you leave at some point you’re also very welcome to take him with you. In the meantime, I have already let Anne know to put food and a litter tray out for him in the kitchen.”

She nodded still watching the kitten as it crawled around underneath one of the chairs. Suddenly she looked straight at him. He smiled at her as she hugged him. She wasn’t sure why, but she’d always wanted a cat. Now she had the cutest, fluffiest one she’d ever seen.

When she stopped hugging him she went straight back to watching Antonio explore. He’d now made his way to the doorway into the sitting room and she followed the little creature. Sherdan wasn’t far behind.

“Before I forget, I made notes today on what I saw, seeing as you were so interested yesterday.”

“Perhaps you can tell me about it all while I eat something. Have you already eaten?” Sherdan replied.

“I’ve already had food but I can sit with you in the dining room if you wish?”

“No that’s not necessary. I’ll have food in here with you and our latest arrival. That way we can watch him together as well.” Sherdan sent for Anne and sat down on the sofa beside Anya.

They laughed together at the kitten’s antics as he tried to get up beside them and play. He got his claws stuck in the side of the sofa and found he didn’t know how to fully retract them. As such he stuck to the side, unable to go up or down.

She lifted him off, set him down beside them both and stroked him as Sherdan reached out to do the same. Their hands brushed against each other until she pulled hers back. Anya blushed as she thought of all the film scenes where the same thing happened. She blushed and stared at the kitten.

Thankfully the awkward moment was relieved when Anne brought in dinner for Sherdan. He had to stop stroking Antonio to take the tray and place it on his lap, giving her a moment to compose herself.

She fetched her notebook from a nearby chair and skimmed through it to remind herself of some of the things she had read and heard that day. The notebook was fuller than she expected and she had take in a lot without realising. Sherdan had long finished eating by the time she’d told him everything.

“And what do you think of what I’m doing?” Sherdan said when he realised she’d finished.

“I… What do you mean?”

“You’ve told me what politicians think, governments and the general population. What do you think of my actions?”

“I think that what you’ve done is impressive. I’m just not sure whether it will work in the long term. People are often so far from perfect. I fear that even with the best of efforts to change governments that your country will be no better than everything that’s come before.”

“That’s no reason not to try.”

“Perhaps not, but there is also the enzyme you’ve all been taking. Eventually someone with less honourable intentions will take it and use the ability to gain for ill.”

“Perhaps, but I don’t think so. Hitchin’s vision says otherwise.”

“You already know my opinion on that.” Anya sighed. Sherdan couldn’t see the error of his ways and was so closed in terms of what he thought.

“You know we’re both as closed-minded as each other. Maybe we could both do with being more open?” Sherdan suggested as he got up.

He left the room to take his tray back to the kitchen, leaving Anya to feel indignant at his assertions. She felt tears sting her eyes and sat back, shocked at her own emotions.

She resolved to turn the subject back to more amiable conversation the second Sherdan came back but it was some time before he walked into the room again. When he did, he had two bowls of chocolate ice cream.

“Anne informed me you hadn’t eaten any dessert. I fancied ice cream. It’s got chocolate brownie chunks in it.” She took the peace offering gratefully and smiled. Chocolate went down well with most women and she was no exception.

They ate in silence until they were both finished and had put their bowls down. The kitten had provided enough of a distraction as it continued to get used to it’s new surroundings that the quiet wasn’t awkward. She’d never have expected someone like Sherdan, with all his antique furniture, to like the idea of a pet.

“Did you do any artwork today?” he asked, stirring her from her thoughts.

“No, I spent the day researching people’s opinions for you.”

“Thank you. It will help me going forward but please do draw… and anything else you’d normally do. Don’t feel you have to do what I ask. I’d rather you did whatever made you happiest.”

“Actually, it did make me happy. I really enjoyed researching.” Anya smiled in reassurance to Sherdan. She could hardly believe how nice he was being to her. A part of her expected him to change back to the controlling version of himself at any moment, however.

“I have some more work to do, but I’d appreciate some company while I did it, if you want to join me in the study?” Sherdan asked. She thought about it for a moment, considering saying no to stay and play with the cat, which had climbed up onto the coffee table.

“Yes, I can draw from in there as easily as here,” she replied instead. It had plagued her conscience that she’d not been kind enough. Being in the same room as him would do her no harm.

She followed him into the study and picked up her pad and pencils. When Sherdan had sat himself in his usual chair and put both his laptop and documents nearby, she sat somewhere so she could glance at him without him noticing too much.

A smile spread across her face when Antonio followed them. He evidently didn’t want to be left alone. He soon settled down by her feet and curled up against the leg of the chair.

She flicked to the next spare page in her sketch book and began to roughly sketch Sherdan’s outline. It took her quite a few minutes as she didn’t want Sherdan to notice her staring at him. Thankfully she managed to get his outline done before he looked up from the document he was reading.

“I’m sorry, I’m not talking much,” Sherdan said.

“That’s okay, I don’t talk much when drawing either, and the sooner you’re done working the sooner we can do something more fun.” Sherdan smiled at Anya before picking up his pen and going back to the document. He made notes while she slowly drew him.

Half an hour later she had a picture of him she wasn’t that impressed with. Sketching him from one side was helping in some ways but not in others. No matter how hard she tried she couldn’t get his mouth right.

He soon reached for his laptop and placed it on his lap, completely changing a lot of what she’d drawn anyway. Anya gave up, flinging her pencil and pad down. She sighed. Sherdan looked up at her but she avoided his gaze. She didn’t want to disturb him from his work.

Instead, she got up and went to the nearest bookshelf to read the covers of the many books Sherdan had. She wasn’t surprised to see ‘The Origin of Species’ by Darwin. It occurred to her that she’d never even flicked through it.

Anya went to pick the book up before remembering she’d been forbidden from touching his older paper books. Another sigh escaped her.

“You’re bored,” Sherdan said, making her jump.

“A little. I don’t really leave ever. The house I mean. I’m in these four walls daily.” Sherdan looked thoughtful.

“Give me a few minutes to finish this.” He went back to his laptop and tapped away at the keys. Anya patiently went to stroke her kitten. It mewled as she started running her hands over it’s very soft fur.

It made her heart feel a little lighter as she knelt, making a fuss of the gift he’d given her. She decided then and there to have Antonio up in her room when she went to bed. It could keep her company and might even provide enough of a calming presence that the frequency of her nightmares would reduce.

Suddenly, Sherdan got up. He paused for a moment, lost in thought, before snapping back and looking straight at Anya.

“Take Antonio through to Anne in the kitchen and ask her to look after him, then go up to your room and fetch some warm clothing and shoes.” Anya nodded and picked up her cat, snuggling it to her. It didn’t take her long to head through to Anne who seemed to be expecting the kitten. A litter tray and food was already laid out for him. She placed him down in the tray so he knew where it was and thanked Anne for being so prepared.

It took her a little longer to find warm clothes. She didn’t have much in the way of warm clothing and she couldn’t decide between two jumpers at first. When she realised she’d been gone over ten minutes she grabbed her coat and shoes, and rushed back to Sherdan’s study.

He still waited for her there and smiled as she walked into the room.

“So what are we doing?” she asked.

“You’ll see. Come on, get your shoes on.” She did as she was told, feeling unexpectedly excited. She’d been cooped up so long that whatever Sherdan was planning she thought she’d enjoy it.

As soon as she got to her feet again he took her hand and led her out of the study. He didn’t explain but she didn’t complain.

Sherdan’s Prophecy: Chapter 29

The hostess encouraged people into their seats as Sherdan moved to the front of the train. He would need to change into a drivers uniform and alight with the driver. He didn’t want to raise suspicion too soon.

The driver was none other than the man who’d picked Sherdan up on his last train journey. He would come with them this time. His family were aboard the train and also joining them.

Sherdan had soon put on his new uniform and was standing with the chauffeur as the train pulled up. He couldn’t help but smile at what would happen over the next few minutes. So many people were going to be so surprised.

The train pulled to a stop in the station and Sherdan jumped down. He glanced around before hurrying towards the back entrance. He could hear other people beginning to disembark behind him. The hostesses on the train would also act as guards for everyone following him.

He pulled a radio out of his pocket as soon as he crossed the border of his land.

“I’m back. Proceed with the plan,” Sherdan commanded. He stepped out into the road as his usual car came sweeping up. It drove him straight to the command bunker where everything was being coordinated.

His men would already be overseeing the arrival of the new residents. He was eager to go head up the task before getting back to his home and Anya. He’d not seen her properly for several days and he found himself missing her even though it saddened him that she was so distant.

He snapped himself back from his thoughts of Anya as his car stopped and his chauffeur opened his door. There was work to be done and he had a responsibility to all those eager, happy people he had met today.

The smile on his face was broad as he walked into his command room. It remained fixed as Graham filled him in on what had happened during his journey. He could see everything that followed on the screens. Rows and rows of people walked into his country, while the army just stayed and watched. They could do nothing.

It only took half an hour for all the new residents to arrive. They were driven to their new homes where they were given the evening to settle in and explore their new country. He’d had welcome packs made up for each new home and the guards were out on the streets patrolling the new areas especially.

Sherdan stayed in the command room even though he wasn’t needed. He expected the army to attack again after what he’d done. There was no doubt that if taking the houses had made the Prime Minister angry, then sneaking in almost one thousand UK citizens would tip him over the edge.

If he had any sense then he wouldn’t attack Sherdan again as it would only lead to more of the same, but Sherdan didn’t expect him to think like that. They would attack again, he was sure of it.

While he was waiting, Sherdan went to see Hitchin. It was gone five in the afternoon but he knew Hitchin would still be working. The labs were his second home; perhaps even his first.

Hitchin was with the latest residents to take the enzyme when Sherdan arrived so he waited for his friend to finish. He didn’t have to wait long. Hitchin was not the kind of person to ever keep someone like Sherdan waiting.

“So, shall we go do those tests now?” Hitchin asked, before Sherdan could say anything.

“If it’s all right, I’d like to talk over something else first?” Hitchin raised his eyebrows but motioned for his friend to continue. “Will you go through your second vision with me again, the one concerning Anya?”

“Of course, if you wish.” Hitchin went to his desk and unlocked the top left drawer. He pulled out a small journal and came back to Sherdan with it. “I have it here, I wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget anything important.”

“Tell me it again.” Sherdan smiled trying not to show his anxiety or doubts. He didn’t want Hitchin to realise he wasn’t sure of the whole thing. Although, he had no idea why he was so uncertain.

Hitchin repeated the whole vision again in pretty much the same way he’d told it the first time. Sherdan sat, listening and hoping it was true. He was more concerned about winning Anya than he was that his ability had gone, although Hitchin was evidently more worried about the tests and soon turned the conversation back to that subject.

“The good news is that you’re the only one who seems to be losing their ability. It doesn’t appear to be wearing off for me or anyone else from the earliest groups.”

“So I’m an anomaly?” Sherdan asked.

“There’s no way to know for sure yet. It’s possible that whatever gave Anya her power is having an affect on you. If it was something in your house, perhaps. Without a working sample of her blood it’s hard to say. It could just be that you’re overworked and tired.”

Sherdan smiled as he nodded his understanding. He felt relieved that at the least it only appeared to affect him. Everyone else was growing in their abilities. More tests would reveal what was wrong.

As Hitchin had requested last time, they went straight for an MRI. While he was lying, being scanned, he thought about all the things Hitchin had told him in the last hour. Anya had them both confused even if Hitchin didn’t want to admit it.

She kept claiming everything was her God. Whatever it was that had brought her to him and given her an ability, despite her not taking the enzyme, it seemed to want her to have the upper-hand and wasn’t going to allow him to control her.

He had only one option open to him. He’d have to win her over the old fashioned way, with romance.

Hitchin wanted to do further tests after the MRI, but before Sherdan could let Hitchin study his brain further they heard the sound of an explosion. They were being attacked again.

Sherdan leapt up and ran towards the command centre without even saying goodbye to the scientist. The assault he’d been expecting had finally come. The radio in his pocket called for him just before he pushed open the door and walked into the command room.

“Bombs and missiles, no paratroopers yet,” his commander said swiftly. Sherdan nodded and went to his station, awaiting further information.

The rest of the evening flew by in a haze of bombings. As usual, the army was completely ineffective. The only problem that arose was calming the new residents who got scared.

A few of them left their houses and refused to go back inside until Sherdan dispatched a security team to help calm them down and get them back to a safe place. The patrols had stopped only half an hour before the attack.

By the time Sherdan could leave his duty station and go back to his home and Anya it was almost midnight. He didn’t expect her to still be awake. As normal, his work was getting in the way of spending any time with her. He knew it had to be this way but his heart felt heavy nonetheless.

He went to pour himself a drink and take half an hour to unwind before he slept. He could sit and think of ways to endear Anya to him.

He had just got comfortable in his favourite chair when he heard the soft pad of familiar feet on the carpet. He looked up to see her in the doorway.

“Good evening. You’ve been very busy,” she said. He smiled.

“I’ve had a lot to do. I think the worst of it has only just begun, however.” Anya nodded. “I’m sorry. I’ve left you alone a lot.”

“That’s okay, I’ve been watching what you’ve been doing on the news.”

“Have they said much?” he asked. She laughed and nodded.

“Yes, I’ve found out more about your plans watching TV than you’ve ever told me.”

“I like to surprise people.”

“Maybe. I think that you’re not used to trusting people.”

“You’re probably right.”

“So what’s next?”

“More of the same. While they continue to attack we will continue to expand. I hope the UN will recognise us before it gets too out of hand. Our case is stronger now we have both extra ground and over fifteen percent more citizens,” Sherdan said, being truthful with her.

“Well, I best get some sleep and let you do the same.” Anya walked towards the door.

“Stay,” he called. She stopped and looked at him expectantly. “I’m not tired yet and I’d appreciate some company.”

After a brief pause she came to sit near him. There was a silence as she simply sat still and waited. He racked his brains for something to say to her.

“How is your art going? Do you still have everything you need?” he asked. She hesitated before nodding.

“It’s going well, thank you for asking.”

“Good. I know it’s hard for you to be here. If there is anything else you need or want to make things easier just let me know.” Sherdan smiled as she looked up at him.

He’d surprised her and he hoped it had a lasting impact.

“Can I see some of your work?” he asked. She nodded and went over to his desk. He hadn’t noticed before now that her sketch book was lying there. She passed it to him and sat back down.

He smiled at her as he opened the first page. On it was a relatively simple sketch of a vase of flowers. They were roses but the petals looked like they were melting and dripping onto the surface below. He flicked to the next page where there were just a few doodles of patterns and single items. He recognised one of them as being the pattern on the ceiling in his dining room.

The third page held his attention for some time. It was a winged man standing on the edge of a cliff. Sherdan wondered if it was deliberate that it looked like him from behind. He wanted to ask her who she’d intended it to be but couldn’t bring himself to do so.

“Do you like them?” she asked. He looked at her to see her sitting forward. Her eyes darted to the pad and and back to his face. He smiled.

“I do. You’re very good,” he reassured her. She grinned. “Do you do portraits?”

“I… I’ve done some a long time ago as part of art school. People aren’t very easy though.”

“Would you consider drawing me?” he asked, suddenly.

“I’m not sure. I’ve not tried to do someone’s portrait in a professional capacity before.”

“Well it’s only a whim of mine. I doubt I’ll have the time to sit still and let you draw me for as long as you’d need.”

“You expect to continue being so busy?”

“Unfortunately yes. I’d like to try and spend more time with you, however.” Anya blushed a little. I enjoy getting away from work and talking to you.”

“All work and no play kind of thing?”

“Something like that, but I really do like being with you. I’d appreciate it if you’d consider helping out with the country while you’re here.”

“In the command room?” Anya asked.

“No, probably not. I only have my experts in there. It helps keep things simpler, and it would actually put you in more danger,” Sherdan lied. It wouldn’t put her in danger unless someone outside the country thought she knew things, but he didn’t want her in the command room. She was an artist and didn’t belong in that kind of place.

She nodded and the conversation ended. She didn’t ask where he had meant. He didn’t really know anyway. He only mentioned it because he wanted to give her a reason to stay and be happy here.

He handed the pad back to her and thanked her for the privilege of seeing inside. He made a mental note to look at her previous artwork on the internet. He felt sure he would find something online as she said she’d been making a living from it.

They talked about the news and the outside reaction to the recent things Sherdan had done for a few minutes before Anya yawned. He wanted to ask her questions but he realised it would be better to let her sleep. The nightmares he’d caused were making her tired.

“Will you tell me more about what’s in the news tomorrow evening?” he asked as she got up to sleep.

“Yes, if you wish.”

“Very much so. It helps a lot to know what people of influence are saying and I can only spare so much time to find out myself.”

“Then I’d be delighted to do so for you,” she replied. He got up and hugged her. She looked shocked but allowed it, although he wasn’t sure why he’d suddenly felt like doing so.

When he let her go, she stood in front of him with her eyes downcast. There was an awkward silence while he watched her fidget.

“Well… goodnight Sherdan.”

“Goodnight Anya. Wake me if you have another nightmare and need some company.”

She hesitated, then left. Sherdan went back to his seat and poured himself another brandy. He felt like he’d made a little progress but not very much. It would take a considerable amount of time to get her to trust him.

At least now he had a very good, work related reason to talk to her for a little while each day. He would do his job better knowing what was being said about Utopia and himself in the public sphere and get to show Anya he cared at the same time.

The important thing over the next two or three weeks would be to make himself special to Anya in someway. He didn’t entirely know how to do that but knew someone who would. Sherdan put down his empty glass and wandered through to see his security team.

“Nathan, have you got a few minutes to come to my study?”

“Of course sir.” Nathan leapt up and followed Sherdan back to the room he’d come from. Sherdan offered him a drink and a seat. He declined the first but took the latter.

“What can you tell me about Anya, Nathan?” Sherdan got straight to the point while pouring himself a third drink.

“Anya, sir?”

“Yes, I want to romance her, let her know I care about her, but I want her to think I’m genuine and none of my usual… methods, are working.”

“Do you genuinely care sir?” Nathan looked uncomfortable saying this but Sherdan was pleased he was so frank with him. He thought about the question for some time and sat down as well.

“I believe I do, at least I care for her more than I normally would care about a female. I’m not used to feeling particularly attached to anyone, however.”

“She’s a Christian. She’ll expect to be respected as such. You might start by listening to her about exactly why and what she believes. It will help her see you care for her as she is and that you’re not trying to change her into something else,” Nathan explained. He smiled.

Sherdan didn’t know whether to feel disgusted or agree. Nathan was right but that didn’t mean he liked the suggestion. So far he’d only told Anya he thought her beliefs were stupid and that wasn’t the most endearing of attitudes.

“I don’t have to believe in it too do I?” he asked.

“No, I wouldn’t expect anyone would believe that was genuine, but being a little more open couldn’t hurt. She’s an adult with a sensible mind. There’s got to be something important in her decision to believe in the Christian faith.”

“Well, open is something I can finally say I am. There have definitely been some things that even stump Hitchin, but I don’t think I believe in all this maker nonsense. Christians refute so much of the proven science we have.”

“Just ask her to explain some things about her faith. You might be pleasantly surprised.”

“Any other suggestions?” Sherdan waited as Nathan looked thoughtful.

“I think she’s bored and lonely. Your time and company would do a lot to help her. She also has a soft spot for animals, more so than a lot of people. I’d consider getting her a pet while she’s here. It would give her companionship. Maybe a cat, they’re lower maintenance and Anne likes them too.”

“Thank you Nathan. I think that’s a good start.”

“You’re welcome sir. If I think of anything else I’ll let you know.” Nathan got up before he finished speaking. Sherdan waited for him to leave and continued to think over what he’d been told. He didn’t like the idea of talking to her about God but he could spend a little more time with her and surprising her with a kitten would be easy.

He got up from his chair and went to his laptop straight away. He sent an email to the girl who could talk to animals and requested for her to find him a particularly affectionate kitten. He told her it was for a friend of his who was missing the family she’d left behind in Britain and he wanted to make her feel less lonely by giving her the cat.

With a much lighter heart, and a fresh plan, Sherdan headed upstairs. It was gone four again. He checked on Anya, who appeared to be sleeping better, before collapsing into his own bed.

Sherdan’s Prophecy: Chapter 28

Sherdan sat in his chair at the command centre. He thought everything was going well, if a little slower than he’d like. He watched the screens at the end of the room as he usually did. It didn’t give anyway near as much information as he wanted but for now it was the best they had.

As the guards were busy, Sherdan didn’t want to interrupt and slow them down. He tapped his fingers impatiently and let his thoughts drift to Anya. She’d repeatedly requested his company then hardly said more than a sentence to him at a time.

He drifted in and out of his thoughts while watching over the developments of the day. Several times Graham interrupted his daydreams just as they were drifting to his imaginings of getting Anya into his bed. She was an attractive young woman and occasionally he really could not help thinking of her like that.

His command room wasn’t the best place to be thinking those thoughts, however, so he made more of an effort to steer his mind back to his work when he had been interrupted for the third time. He thought of all the weird things that had happened since she arrived instead, and what it might mean.

The first time anything weird had happened in his life was back when he’d known Sandy and Professor Carmichael. Then he had put it down to science that was yet unexplained but now he found himself wondering if he had been too closed to possibilities. So many more weird things had happened since Anya had arrived that he wondered if he had to rethink his earlier interpretation of those two as well.

Graham soon interrupted his brain’s meanderings on that score too. There was work to monitor and, even though Sherdan was doing very little, his opinion was needed on most of the decisions.

The day was long but Sherdan went home satisfied. Everyone who needed to had left. The three students who hadn’t been in their house when the evacuation had started had turned up at about three in the afternoon.

Sherdan had managed to have them moved into the area as another family were leaving. Interestingly all three of them had requested to join the program rather than be kicked out. They were studying graphic design at Bristol’s second university: the University of the West of England.

It made Sherdan stop and think for a bit before he gave an answer. They reminded him of Anya, especially when they said they were studying something artistic. As the after-effect every thought of Anya had, he found himself feeling more compassionate and he eventually said yes to their request.

When he got home it was almost four in the morning. He was glad that none of the new residents were arriving until the following afternoon. He checked in on Anya on his way to his room. She didn’t look peaceful at all.

Her face poured with sweat and she was curled up on her side with her knees drawn up against her chest. She gritted her teeth, evidently in pain. Sherdan rushed over to her to wake her up.

“Anya, you’re having a nightmare.”

She sat up with a jump, disorientated. He perched on the edge of the bed as she started crying into her hands. She didn’t look at him or even acknowledge he was there. After a moment’s hesitation he sat beside her, put his arms around her and pulled her into a hug.

“It was just a bad dream, you’re safe now,” he whispered. She sobbed against his chest as he stroked her hair. He waited for her to stop and calm down while he enjoyed having her so close to him, although the reason behind it pained him greatly. He’d never felt anything so bitter-sweet.

As her crying ceased she pulled away. She seemed ashamed to be seen and neatened her hair with her hands.

“Is it more nightmares about what happened?” he asked. She nodded. “It won’t ever happen again, I promise. You really are safe now.”

Sherdan tried to look her in the eyes to reassure her but she wouldn’t meet his gaze. He knew she didn’t really believe him.

“I wouldn’t have allowed it had I known you like I do now. Had I known how important you are.”

“I’m only important to you because of Hitchin and I don’t believe he’s right. I definitely don’t like the way he talks about me.” Sherdan looked away. He didn’t want yet another argument. “I’m sorry, I just don’t believe you, but thank you for waking me and checking I was okay.”

“You’re welcome. I don’t like to see you upset. I mean that.”

“I don’t hate you for what happened but I’m not sure I belong here.”

“I’ve told you that you’re free to go.”

“Would I be free to go if I wasn’t able to walk out without you stopping me?” she asked. He paused and looked away, seriously considering his answer.

“If I knew you weren’t happy here then, yes, I think you would, even if it made me sad doing so.” He looked deep into her eyes as he replied, hoping she would believe him. She smiled but looked away.

“There’s no way to know for sure now.”

“I’ll let you rest,” he replied and got up. The divide between them was so large sometimes he doubted even Hitchin could be right. He made a mental note to run the vision by Hitchin again and check that he had interpreted it right.

When Sherdan’s alarm went off at seven, he immediately turned it off and rolled over, falling fast asleep again. Less than three hours sleep was just not enough. Anya woke him at nine, her concerned face was the first thing to come into focus properly.

“You overslept,” she said as if it explained why she was in his bedroom with nothing but some flimsy pyjamas on. He smiled at her.

“I’m not sure I mind if you’re what I wake up to.” She blushed and went to leave. “How did you sleep after I left you?”

“Well… Thank you.” Anya left but before he could follow Graham called for his attention on the radio. He didn’t sound happy. Sherdan assumed he had called several times and it had woken Anya too.

“I’ll be right there. Give me a few more minutes.”

“Yes, sir,” came the relieved reply. Sherdan sighed. He had so much work and all he really wanted to do was spend time with Anya before it was too late and she left.

He said goodbye to his distant companion and walked out of his house. Breakfast would have to wait.

A few last minutes preparations were needed before he could go meet the new arrivals. The new recruits were joining today, despite government warnings to stay away, and threats of arrest for anyone seen with Sherdan. Therefore, he felt it necessary to go meet them all and escort them personally into their new country.

His commander fidgeted while Sherdan ran through some of the day’s plans. Sherdan was intending to leave him in charge of the country while he was gone and he had already expressed concern over it.

“Are you sure this is wise?” Graham asked half an hour later.

“Of course. It shall be fine.”

“Last time was a close thing sir. I’d hate for you to get caught.”

“I won’t. I’ll have a team with me.” Sherdan left the command room before Graham could say anything else.

He went straight back to his house and into his car. His chauffeur drove him through his usual tunnel and out into what was now a separate country. The driver travelled all the way to Bath and dropped Sherdan off at the Bath Pavilion.

On entering the building he was snuck behind the scenes before any of the people milling about noticed him. There weren’t many there yet but there would be. They’d all been invited elsewhere and were being brought here by his own people to make sure the British Government didn’t know anything about it.

Sherdan stood on the other side of the curtain, watching the people gather. It took almost half an hour and everyone was served drinks while they waited. There weren’t quite as many as had been invited but that was to be expected. The way things had gone the last few weeks he understood that the Prime Ministers ramblings would have put some of them off.

He had to wait for almost an hour until one of his team came up and said everyone who intended to come had arrived. Sherdan allowed everyone a few minutes longer to come through to find seats and drinks.

When he stepped through the curtain silence immediately fell and every eye fixed on him. He smiled and walked right to the centre. Every little fidget and awkward cough could be heard by Sherdan as well as every one of his deliberate footfalls.

“Good afternoon everyone. I sincerely thank you all for travelling here, many of you a very long way. It means a lot to me and my residents that you all wish to join us, despite the slander and lies being spread.” Sherdan smiled and paused as he looked around at all the eager faces. They trusted him to give them a better life than one the current government had given them. They wanted change; something different. His heart swelled. He could give it to them.

“As you are aware, it is currently not very easy to access your new home, Utopia. We’ll all be leaving here very shortly to head there. You will all need to move quickly and efficiently and go where you’re asked. Of course, for anyone still unsure about joining, now is the time to say so. It is quite possibly a one way trip.”

Sherdan smiled again and jumped down from the front of the stage as the first wave of applause broke out. People soon began to come up to talk to him but he simply encouraged them to follow.

He walked to the front door with a wave of people like he was a prophet leading his followers, and got into the stretch limo which pulled up outside. The few people right behind hesitated before the chauffeur waved them into the car. The first seven followed Sherdan and sat down around him.

The second the car started he struck up a conversation with his fellow passengers. First impressions were so important. He was treated as a celebrity at first. All of his companions were shy and nervous but he soon put them at ease.

They were understandingly apprehensive about the journey and what would happen to them, but Sherdan did everything he could to reassure them that they would be okay. There was safety in numbers and they were adding significant numbers that day. Over one thousand.

Sherdan put all their fears to rest in the hour journey that ensued. They had all been driven north to a small, private, disused railway station. Today, however, the station was very much active and used. A magnificent steam train stood puffing a great plume of smoke into the otherwise quiet air.

There were murmurings amongst the arrivals as they saw the train. Many long, luxurious carriages had been attached to the steamer. Each carriage had wine and nibbles aboard as well as very comfortable seats.

The passengers soon came flowing aboard and Sherdan alighted in no particular hurry. It would take a few moments for all the cars to arrive and everyone to be seated.

A hostess service was already on board, passing people drinks and encouraging them to be seated until the train started moving.

As each carriage filled up, Sherdan moved through, greeting people, shaking hands and making small talk. Many of them had relaxed, finally feeling safe and taken care of. Sherdan was thanked repeatedly for being there despite the risk of capture.

He smiled as the train started moving and their journey to Utopia began. There was a railway station in Bristol which had a back entrance leading into Utopia. The army checked each train carriage as well as the people exiting the front of the station but they couldn’t get past the platform to the rear entrance thanks to Sherdan’s emitters.

With the train being a privately owned vehicle, and only registered to pause there for a moment to let another train go past, no one would even expect people to be arriving on the train.

Sherdan had only moved a third of the way through the people when the train began to move. From that point people got out of their seats and started milling around. He soon found himself surrounded.

“What’s it like, running a country?” a bright-eyed young woman asked him.

“Difficult. There are lots of rules, and people to keep happy, but it’s rewarding. Every day I get to see my decisions making a positive difference to my citizens.” Sherdan smiled. It was just the kind of question he’d been hoping someone would ask.

“You actually think it makes a difference?” a man in his fifties piped up.

“Of course. I can see the difference in my residents already. They’re happier now they have a greater sense of purpose, coupled with the security I can provide.

“This security, you’ve obviously got some fancy new technology. What is it?”

“It’s true we do possess some equipment the rest of the world doesn’t own yet. I probably shouldn’t go into too many details right now as it will be covered in your information seminars tomorrow.”

Several looks of awe spread over the faces of the people listening at this latest answer. He thought he’d get a reaction from this but it was even better than he had hoped.

“Without giving too much away, it was developed right here in the heart of my little country by a man not too dissimilar from yourself, Mr Jameson. A man who thought the best of life had passed him by.”

Mr Jameson smiled and shook Sherdan’s hand. Everyone murmured amongst themselves as Sherdan moved on down the carriage to some fresh faces and new questions.

He could hardly wait until he was back in his country with all the new residents. They would have quite an impact on the United Nations in persuading them to recognise Utopia as a new country.

On top of all the immediate benefits, there were also all the new abilities the people would gain. The smiling, excited people around him would soon become eager workers and helpers, making his country stronger and taking them closer to the end target.

The train journey flew by as Sherdan talked with all the people around him. Many were similar ages to him. People who’d had jobs their whole lives and got no where in life. He’d given them so much hope and they were grateful for it.

Sherdan’s Prophecy: Chapter 27

Nathan was just the right man to head the first few hours of the day’s plans. He had joined the security teams on the ground as soon as he’d finished another night shift at the main house. He was tired but knew Sherdan had entrusted him with an important mission. People would need to be kept calm and the guards would need to be as polite as possible.

Nathan had an advantage none of the others had. He could tell what people were thinking. He could also project his own thoughts into someone else’s head as if he had said something to them. The first of these two abilities was perfect for pre-empting peoples reactions to being asked to leave.

As soon as his usual guard shift was over he reported to the guard house nearest the strike area. There a team waited for him.

“Right men, we need to be polite but efficient. We’re representing this country on one of its first diplomatic missions and we want to give a good impression.” Nathan smiled at his men. Everyone filed out to do their duty.

Eight men had backpacks on. The army wouldn’t realise they carried emitters for the shields and barriers in them. The soldiers would be pushed back as the guards advanced.

The eight fanned out along the perimeter side that was being expanded and began walking towards the edge. Nathan kept everyone else close behind.

They were careful to miss the housing, walking between them so the emitters didn’t reach any further than the brick walls of each house, so they would just push back the army. They wanted the people within their houses to continue sleeping.

A few rows of houses near the compound had already been evacuated by the army when they had first arrived. This only made Nathan’s job easier. They would be readily available for any new residents.

In the cover of night, the guards advanced on the resting soldiers. They soon shrunk back, feeling the affects of the moving barriers. The retreat was a shambles as the men rushed to get away from the unseen advancing walls.

Nathan smiled as his team took over the British barricade and abandoned defences. Everything was running smoothly and only the odd barking of a dog in the distance showed their progress had been noticed by anything other than the army.

Sherdan urged Nathan on from the command bunker, evidently excited. He in turn encouraged his own men forward.

After an hour had passed the entire targeted area was under their control. Each guard with a backpack was stationed to form a new perimeter, keeping all the soon-to-be refugees within the area and the army out.

As soon as everything was secure and just how he wished it Nathan led his security team to the first few houses. He split the groups into four and had them knock on the nearest doors. He waited and watched from a central location.

He concentrated hard on listening to each conversation as the doors were opened. The first was a little girl who had beaten her parents out of bed. She ran to fetch them, evidently a little scared.

The second door revealed an older mother. She had two teenage sons. The pair of men at her door launched into their rehearsed speech about who they were and why they were here. She started crying which finally attracted the attention of her children.

Nathan projected instructions to the guards on how to handle the situation, reminding them to stay calm and as non-threatening as possible. They asked the worried mother if she had anyone the family could go and stay with, until her insurance paid out. She nodded, brightening at the thought of insurance covering the financial side of things.

There was a possibility the evacuee’s insurance wouldn’t cover the house against being taken like this but that wasn’t a problem Nathan could address. He just had to get them all to leave as quickly as they could.

The third people to answer were equally amicable. They had been expecting to be moved from their houses anyway and were already partly packed. The three University girls went to sort their remaining possessions and phone their already worried parents to let them know they’d be coming home very soon.

Nathan had the groups that were done move on to the next houses. So far so good.

“Two houses packing. Only two hundred or so to go,” he said into his radio, reporting to Sherdan.

“Thank you Nathan. We’ll need to pick up the pace to get them all out by nightfall,” came the reply.

“Yes sir. I suggest sending in the extra men. We’ll need some help. There’s quite a few young children.” Nathan waited, listening to the parents at the first door. The father was trying to argue with the guards.

“They’re on their way. Give me a report in half an hour.” Sherdan’s voice commanded.

“Yes sir,” Nathan replied, only half listening.

“Tell them they have until midnight tonight to be packed and ready to go or they’ll be removed without their possessions, with force if necessary,” he sent into the head of the guard. He soon heard the guard repeat it to the irate father. The soldiers walked away to the next door before any more could be said.

The father contemplated following but his wife tugged on his arm and instead they retreated inside. Nathan sighed with relief. He wanted this to go well.

As the sky grew lighter, and each successive door was knocked on, Nathan grew more and more tired. Each new house presented a fresh reaction and with the extra security there were eight to concentrate on at a time. The remaining guards did useful things, like taking the people crates to pack into.

The single mother even made use of one of the male guards to help her load her car with the packed boxes as they were done with.

An argument soon broke out when an old lady, living alone, tried to go around to a friends house and tell her what was happening instead of packing her own things. Nathan sent a more mature female guard over to explain to the resident why she had to go back to her own house.

He lingered nearby as he listened to their conversation. The poor old woman had been very intimidated by the men and their uniform. Sending another woman to deal with the situation did the trick and she soon allowed herself to be walked back to her house.

“Make sure Annie hears it from you and not one of these big oafs. She’s a nervous one. They’ll scare her,” the old woman added. Nathan smiled when his guard assured her that her request would be granted.

“Well done,” he whispered into the guards head before switching his focus elsewhere.

Three hours later, just over a third of the residents had been informed and other than one house everyone was packing and sorting through their possessions. The army had tried to get into the area a couple of times but hadn’t succeeded. Nathan had a headache and knew he couldn’t keep using his ability much longer.

“Stay another hour if you can manage it. Use your power sparingly,” Sherdan requested. Nathan did as he was told, hoping the hour would pass without mishap. He only had to make it to half ten and he would be relieved from duty.

The occupants of the house currently troubling them did not seem to be there. Nathan’s men knocked on the hour three times before he gave the order to knock the door down. No one was inside but the house look lived in.

“Sherdan, we’ve got a house with no occupant. If the fridge and laundry is anything to go by there should be,” Nathan radioed.

“What number is it?”

“Thirty-seven.”

“Okay, we’ll check the address. Leave it alone for now.”

Nathan sighed. This job wasn’t easy and his headache only got worse as the hour progressed.

The first person to lash out at a guard did so with only ten minutes of the hour to go. Nathan rushed over to the scene as did a few other guards.

The man had punched the soldier when he’d been informed of the ultimatum. Thankfully the guards soon had him restrained and sat down. Other than the blood flowing from the guard’s nose there was no harm done.

Nathan had the two men separated, just in case tempers flared, removing the guard from duty to get himself checked out. He thought it better to be careful where this kind of thing was concerned.

“I’m sorry that today’s news has upset you.”

“Too right it has. You’ve got no right ter take our houses,” the middle aged man replied.

“Sherdan warned the British government that he would do this if they attacked.”

“That don’t make it right!”

“No, but it’s our only way of retaliating without risking civilian deaths. We don’t want anyone to get hurt.”

“We’re gettin’ hurt though. You’re takin’ our houses.”

“We wouldn’t be doing it if we could think of a better option.” The man hung his head. The fight had gone out of him. Nathan felt sorry for the man but he had a job to do. “You should find somewhere to go for the meantime and then enquire about your insurance if you own the house.”

He received a nod in response but that was it. He had the guards let the guy go and everyone backed off to give him time to think.

Nathan, very thankfully, finished his shift. Sherdan sent another guard to take over from him and he didn’t waste time, leaving to turn towards his own home. He lived in a small house not too far from Sherdan’s, in case he was needed.

The walk back didn’t take long and he was soon climbing the stairs to his room. He removed his uniform and climbed into bed. It was gone one in the afternoon so he would have less than five hours before he would need to be up for guard duty in Sherdan’s house. Before he settled down to sleep he reached into the top drawer of his bedside cabinet and pulled out his Bible.

Sherdan’s Prophecy: Chapter 26

Anya lay awake for many hours that night. She wasn’t happy and had been having increasingly worse nightmares. She still felt afraid that Sherdan would revert back to being nasty again.

He often got angry when she expressed her disapproval and also grew frustrated at they way she kept him at arms reach. Her feelings about him were still mixed up. He attracted her, that was for sure, but she didn’t like his personality as much. He thought too much of himself and disregarded her opinion too readily. She wanted more respect from a potential life partner.

The last few days of attempted invasions and bombings only made her feel even less safe around Sherdan. She didn’t understand the technology he had and imagined the compound being invaded at any point. It made her feel stuck between two powerful forces and she couldn’t decide who she wanted to win, if she wanted either to.

When everything was calm and Sherdan reminded her that he had originally forced her to stay she hoped the British army would sweep in and save her. When the country was under attack she prayed for Sherdan’s defences to hold and for no one to get hurt.

She sat up in bed, tucking her knees up and wrapping her arms around herself. The room was so familiar to her now that she had begun to forget the details of her own house. She could generally picture it, but little items and particular things which made it her home had faded.

She closed her eyes to try to picture the bedroom better but after a few minutes flashes of her torture came into her head instead.

The constant flipping between two extremes was taking it’s toll on her emotionally. Combined with her nightmares she felt more drained with each passing day. She also felt more tempted to let Sherdan have things his way. It might make her feel safer.

Anya blocked this thought from her head right away. It would do her no good to be his wife. Only God could ensure her safety and He only promised safety for her soul. Sherdan would only put her in more danger.

She got out of bed and went to her window, praying for God’s peace as she had done the last five nights. Tears flowed down her cheeks. She didn’t understand why God wanted her here. All she knew was that she had to endure it for as long as it was required of her.

When she finally felt tired enough to sleep she got back into bed. Within five minutes she had slipped into a dream…

She sat in the middle of an all too familiar room. She was, thankfully, unchained this time. As she got up Sherdan came in. His eyes blazed and she took a step back, catching her breath. It wasn’t normally him but the guard instead.

Sherdan advanced on her and she backed up until she could go no further. He pinned her up against the wall with his own body. She could feel his heart beat against her own. His significantly calmer than hers.

He didn’t hurt her and she didn’t struggle. Her eyes never left his as his expression softened. Her fear faded and still neither of them moved. Finally, he bent to kiss her but stopped as a noise came from outside.

The door slammed open against the wall and in rushed several men with swords drawn. They advanced towards her and Sherdan. She shrank back even further, thinking they had come for her. They hadn’t. They marched towards Sherdan who also backed up, afraid.

Anya didn’t know what to do. She felt frozen to the spot and could only watch as each step brought the three men closer to Sherdan. Feeling pushed from behind she rushed to the middle of the room and in front of him.

“This man is under my protection. Leave now,” Anya felt her mouth say with a voice unlike her own. They laughed and continued, ignoring her and trying to walk past.

She thrust her right arm out sideways, catching the nearest soldier in the kidneys. As she swung her arm back she grabbed his sword hand and pulled back his fingers.

He dropped the weapon and it clanged onto the hard floor. Anya watched as her arm reached out to pick it up and she swung around, slicing the throat of the same man. Blood sprayed out as she moved to the next two. They hesitated. They hadn’t believed her threat any more than she had.

She seemed to know exactly what to do and soon dispatched both of the soldiers to follow the first into the next life…

Anya woke up, breathing heavily. She had never had a dream like it. The idea that she might be able to defend herself had never occurred to her and to act in such a violent manner in defence of Sherdan disgusted her.

Her stomach heaved as she ran to the bathroom. Thankfully, she reached the toilet in time for the second spasm which removed her evening meal from her stomach. She shivered violently, kneeling on the floor for the next few minutes as her brain tried to process the odd dream.

She had felt herself do things as if another was in control of her body at the same time as knowing exactly what doing each of the martial arts moves would feel like. It played through her head again as vividly as it had moments before, but she still couldn’t understand why she would ever do anything like it or why she’d protect Sherdan.

A part of her despised him for everything he had let his guards do to her and for all the manipulative conversations he’d followed it with. But it was only a part of her. On occasions she found herself thinking about life by his side. She assumed it was something like Stockholm syndrome but couldn’t feel peaceful either way.

She decided to see what God said about violence and killing in the Bible and picked up the copy Sherdan had let her have. Flicking through it didn’t help at first. There were plenty of wars in the old testament but that wasn’t as relevant. She was only one person not a nation.

Instead of reading any more from the old testament she moved to the new testament and Paul’s letters. He’d often been persecuted for his faith and talked about both his trials and the trials of many of the other disciples.

She scanned through looking for relevant passages and stopped in Romans. There was a section in Romans 12 titled ‘love in action’. The last line said, “do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

She stopped breathing as she stared at the section. God expected her to overcome the evil situation by being righteous. She’d been awful to Sherdan and suddenly felt very guilty.

It was important she didn’t let him control her but, while she remained and God wanted her there, she knew she needed to be better at showing Sherdan kindness. She was struck with the thought of how far her kindness and goodness should go and the idea of her defending him didn’t seem anywhere near as absurd.

The martial arts still baffled her, however, as she’d never studied it in the slightest. She had to ponder further over why she might have dreamt it but her eyelids drooped and stopped her confused thoughts until morning.

Sherdan had gone to lead his team in taking more territory long before breakfast, so Anya ate alone and, as she’d been doing every day, she put the twenty four hour news channel on. It gave her more information on Sherdan’s plans than he did.

Already the focus of the reporter was the new country. Sherdan’s teams had already began warning people in the area that they were going to have to leave. Many still hadn’t been out of bed when the guards had arrived. The army tried to stop them but it seemed that barriers were all covering the new area as well. Sherdan had been thorough.

The cameras got as close as they could but were still a long way off. Anya could tell they wanted to interview the residents but many were already busy packing up their belongings. A lot were in shock and seemed to be working autonomously. A few stood on their front lawns unable to think coherently.

Many of the guards were lending a hand. Anya was surprised at how amicable everything was. It seemed most of the people losing their houses understood there was no point in arguing and the kids seemed to think the day was a great game; a far more exciting way to spend a Sunday morning.

The army and news reporters watched as several hours passed. The people all packed their possessions into the crates they were provided with. The crates were slowly stacked into cars and by midday the first few people were ready to leave, although they were mostly students who had less to pack.

Anya couldn’t believe the heartlessness of the whole thing. Many of the women cried at having to leave their houses, especially when a large amount of the furniture was being left behind.

She could hardly tear her attention away from the news. As people left the area the reporters finally got their interviews and new footage was shown on the TV.

The people interviewed struggled to articulate how they felt and many just cried. Anya was moved to tears by them at several points.

When there were still people leaving and packing long after dinner had been and gone, Anya grew restless and turned the channel off. She could not watch any more.

She went to pick up a book but found she had read all the modern ones that interested her. Sherdan had forbidden her touching all his old first edition books so she wandered through the house until she found herself in the security room.

All four of the security team were there. Nathan and Julie were standing in the open space. None of them had noticed her so she hung back and watched, curious.

Nathan was instructing Julie on something Anya couldn’t hear. The next thing she knew the two began sparring. Nathan was evidently the better of the pair and the instructor of the other.

Anya gasped when Nathan landed a blow and hit Julie. All four guards turned to her, only Nathan smiled.

“Good evening.”

“Good evening. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to pry… I just… I.”

“I was teaching some self defence. Do you wish to join in?”

“I… You’d teach me?” Anya’s eyes went wide. She hadn’t expected to be offered lessons in martial arts.

“I’m teaching already. Another one of you wouldn’t make much difference.”

“I’d love to learn.” Anya beamed but looked nervous all the same. She took a few steps into the room before hesitating. She had no idea where to begin.

Nathan sent her to fetch some more suitable clothing. She almost didn’t go back, but after the dream she knew she couldn’t say no. She just hoped that she’d not have to use it, not really use it at least, but she didn’t think it was a coincidence that Nathan had offered to teach her less than twenty-four hours after she’d dreamt about it.

Before she could back out, Anya rushed back to the security room. When she arrived she noticed that both Julie and Ed were gone. Nathan got up as soon as she walked into the room.

“Oh, I’m not getting in the way am I?” she asked.

“No, not at all. It only takes two of us to do our duty when people are in the house. One to watch the safety of the residents and one for the exterior.” Anya looked puzzled. “You’re here so I’m still doing my job.”

She finally smiled, put at ease by Nathan’s eagerness and reasoning.

He encouraged her to come stand out in the open and ran her through thirty minutes of warm up and basic exercises. She was already out of breath and exhausted by the time he had finished.

“You’ll need to bring your fitness level up to get good at a martial art. You’d be surprised how tiring fighting is.” Anya nodded at him. She wasn’t sure she could speak. He started by showing her the very basics; how to stand and protect herself.

She did her best to concentrate, picking up the gist of his requests quickly. Calmed by his gentle instruction she soon lost track of time. He’d shown her some basic blocking movements and almost two hours had passed.

He stopped teaching and bowed towards her. She copied his movements, bowing back.

“Thank you. I enjoyed that.”

“You’re welcome. You’re a fast learner. Have you done anything like it before?”

“Not at all. I don’t even know what you’ve been teaching me.”

“Oh, just some karate. Mostly the defensive side of it.”

“Well thank you.” Anya smiled.

“Would you like to learn some more? We can continue at the same time every day or in the last hour of my shift in the morning, if you prefer?”

“Morning would be better.” Anya didn’t want Sherdan to get upset that she was spending time with his guards instead of him. He always worked in the mornings so would be a lot less likely to miss her.

She thanked Nathan again and went back to the study, it was almost midnight and there wasn’t any sign of the master of the house. He’d been at the compound for over sixteen hours.

The news still focused on Utopia and the day’s events. The Prime Minister had presented another speech late in the evening saying he considered Sherdan’s latest move an act of war.

Anya laughed when she heard this. They were already at war. The attacks had seen to that. She also noted that to be at war both parties had to be countries. Sherdan had gained ground in that regard.

She found herself being swayed in Sherdan’s direction and disapproved of how her own government were handling this. Brute force evidently wasn’t going to stop Sherdan or his people.

It amused her that the army had been unable to do anything but watch all day. They’d tried to save face by helping the people kicked out of their homes but they couldn’t get anywhere near people until they were let out by Sherdan’s men. He was in complete control.

The Utopia security team used the emitters as a sort of double gateway, opening one after the other, moving the leaving people out of the way but keeping all of Sherdan’s citizens safe at the same time. It impressed Anya.

She gave up waiting for Sherdan at two in the morning and went to her room. Her body ached a little as she climbed into bed. She prayed she’d get a good nights sleep and not have any more nightmares. She felt exhausted. The day had been fraught with nervousness as she watched the happenings on TV and, with her karate lesson to finish the day, she felt a lot more tired than usual.

Sherdan’s Prophecy: Chapter 25

Later that afternoon Anya disturbed Sherdan. She had been watching TV since before the broadcast. He put down his laptop and followed her. The Prime Minister was doing a speech outside number ten.

“Dr Sherdan Harper is nothing more than a terrorist.” He paused to look up from his notes before looking back at the podium. “This country doesn’t negotiate with terrorists. We will use the full force of the British army to re-open the closed-off area of Bristol and rescue the people this madman is calling his ‘residents’.”

The journalists gathered in front of the podium shouted questions at him, but Mr Jones ignored them all. He went back inside his house and shut the door. The speech was short and to the point. There would be more attacks.

“The UN will put pressure on him not to attack once we’re recognised. As will other countries,” Sherdan told Anya. He wanted to reassure her.

If Utopia is recognised.” Anya sighed. She went back to her book. Sherdan sat and watched the news channel a little longer.

When he went back to his study he radioed the command bunker and told them to be prepared for another attack. The commander acknowledged the information but Sherdan noticed the weariness in his voice. After three attacks in four days, the people were tired and it would only get worse for the next few days.

He spent the rest of the evening preparing a speech for the residents. He only spoke to Anya when they ate. She didn’t say much and had been subdued since the second assault. He knew he had given her a lot to think about.

There had also been a lot on Sherdan’s mind so it didn’t come as a surprise when, later that evening, his head throbbed with a large headache. He rubbed his temples. He also had to see Hitchin for more tests but everything non-life-threatening would have to wait until after the expected attempts at invasion.

Anya came through to say goodnight as it passed midnight and the following day began but got no further. The country was under attack again. He took her hand, looking apologetically at her and led her to the command bunker.

She stayed silent during the walk, reinforcing Sherdan’s worry that something was wrong. He couldn’t deal with it at the moment, however.

He was about to leave her in his private room at the command centre as a loud explosion sounded somewhere above them. She flinched and ducked, looking up as if she expected the ceiling to fall on her.

“It’s okay, the force field will have detonated it outside and prevented anything from flying in at speed and causing damage,” Sherdan reassured her. She didn’t look convinced and just curled up back on the bed again, her eyes pointed upwards.

He frowned and rushed into the command bunker. The look he gave the people in there stopped everyone in their tracks. He wanted answers.

“Nothing has been damaged. The shield worked,” the nearest worker said.

“Good. Keep track of what is being sent our way so we can expand our borders as required,” Sherdan replied.

“Yes sir!”

He nodded and went to his station. It took him a few seconds to focus. The reduced sleep and added pressure was taking it’s toll on him.

The explosions continued to be heard overhead and he could not help thinking of the woman waiting for him in the nearby room. He hoped she could get some rest with all the noise and mayhem.

He watched the screens, although little could be seen on them. The darkness made it harder to organise their defences so they had to be extra careful. Thankfully, so far there didn’t seem to be any paratroopers.

Any aircraft over head quickly dropped bombs and flew back to their starting airfields. Other than a small amount of debris, the bombs had no affect on the country. Their shield kept everything safe and all the bombs detonated far above the tops of the homes.

By the early hours of the morning the air raid had stopped. Up rolled more tanks. The explosions flashed just outside the shields and when the smoke cleared the only damage they could see was to the armies own barriers.

The shields not only blocked the incoming projectiles but deflected the blasts back towards the source. One tank which had driven up only a few metres from the barrier set itself alight with the first shot. Sherdan smiled as Graham and a few others laughed out loud.

When the attack finally ceased he noticed spirits had lifted amongst his command team. They had watched for three hours as the army did nothing but waste money and make noise. No guards had been needed and the only concern had been the debris building up on the ground.

Sherdan ordered everyone to get some rest and leave the clean up for the morning. Residents would need to be careful in the meantime, but only to not trip over any of the bomb parts that had fallen through the shield after detonation. None of it could hurt anyone now.

He went to his private room to find Anya had slept, as he had expected. She looked very peaceful, on her side, her hands tucked up under the pillow her head rested on. He wasn’t sure he had the heart to wake her. Instead, he poured a drink and sat down.

It still surprised him that she remained with him. She had the ability to leave and would probably be a lot safer if she did. She had also given him no indication she wanted to progress a relationship with him.

He sighed. He was unsure of his feelings for her and he didn’t like it. Except for one or two occasions he’d always had everything he wanted. There had been one student who had rejected him back in his earlier days at the university. Sandy had dated the astrophysics professor, Paul Carmichael. He had been older than Sherdan and not quite so well groomed, but that evidently had not bothered her.

He just could not work Anya out, no matter how hard he tried. For the first time he didn’t even know if he wanted something, let alone if he would achieve it.

Sherdan didn’t move when he had finished his drink. He continued to stare at the puzzling girl, tucked up in his bed. Slowly he drifted off to sleep, thinking of Anya, and Hitchin’s prophecy.

He remained asleep in the chair until he felt a hand stroking his cheek softly.

“Sherdan,” Anya whispered. He opened his eyes to look into hers. She smiled and stepped away. The bed was unmade and she busied herself making it neat again.

“What time is it?” he asked.

“Gone nine. Hitchin turned up half an hour ago but said he’d email you. Why didn’t you wake me?”

“I intended to. I fell asleep.”

“What time did the attack stop?”

“Not until the army realised it was doing no damage at all.” Sherdan smiled as Anya stopped what she was doing.

“They were bombing you, how was nothing blown up?”

“Our shields. They stopped anything but the debris getting through.”

Anya’s mouth fell open and she blinked a few times. Completely lost for words.

“They can detect the velocity of projectiles trying to pass through them. The faster they travel the more it seems like a wall is in the way. The bombs they just dropped couldn’t cope with the forces stopping them so they exploded on impact with it. Anything that remained then passed through the shields to fall on the ground,” Sherdan explained.

“I don’t understand. If it’s based on speed, how are the soldiers who try to walk in stopped?”

“There are two parts to the shield system. The second part stops anyone who doesn’t have the enzyme from being able to pass. You wouldn’t be able to go through it even though you have an ability as your enzyme is different.”

“No one was hurt then?”

“No. No one from our country. I don’t think any soldiers were hurt either.”

“Your country.”

Sherdan raised an eyebrow and blinked. It took him a moment to figure out what she meant. He nodded, stopping her from explaining. He didn’t think he wanted her to tell him she didn’t intend to stay and be his queen. They’d been around that circle already and he didn’t want to say anything which might make her leave.

He opened the secret door for her to go back to his house but did not follow her. She’d distracted him enough from his job. His citizens needed him to focus on them and their needs.

The big tasks for the morning were cleaning up the streets and working out the process to expand their country borders in retaliation. Not only did they need to work out exactly how much they should expand by but also where.

Sherdan didn’t want to take territory he couldn’t easily defend. He also didn’t want to upset the British public too much. He’d be making many of them homeless and something like that would need to be done as delicately as possible.

He started with the clean up process. Bomb remains were littered all over the area. The army had chucked a great deal of explosives at them. Ninety percent had been over the central command area but there was hardly a street without some cleaning to do.

The guards were enlisted in the tidying. He wanted the residents to feel like everything was under control. They would have been scared by all the noise through the night. The sooner their world returned to normal the better they would handle the immediate future.

Sherdan was pleased he had thought to write a short speech already. He quickly modified it to suit the aftermath of the last attack and pressed the intercom button.

He delivered a short, comforting message, reassuring the residents that he knew what he was doing and that they still stood strong and unharmed. He even got to mock Mark Jones a little for his incompetence.

When Sherdan was satisfied that his country was all tidy again he allowed his officers some room to breath and retreated to his rest room. There, he finally checked his emails.

Hitchin had emailed as Anya had informed him. The contents were no surprise. Hitchin wanted him to come in for more tests. Sherdan marked the email to reply to it later. It still had to wait.

He also had an email from Ellie’s father. He hadn’t travelled down to see his daughter, not believing it to be safe. Instead he demanded his daughter be returned to him. Sherdan smiled to himself as he wrote his reply.

Every good reason not to allow Ellie to leave was now presentable. Not only was it unsafe for her to go but the British army were highly unlikely to let her. There was even the possibility they would take her in for questioning and she’d be in even more danger.

Sherdan didn’t expect this to pacify the father at all, but he sent the message anyway. He spent the rest of the day working out what buildings he wished to take as part of the country.

He needed more space for all the people arriving on Monday. There were two days to find room for all of them. Only a small amount of housing remained free within the borders as previous expansion had been done very slowly and covertly, using many different company names and representatives to hide that one person was taking over the whole area.

They also needed to be careful not to annoy too many British residents. At the moment they had support from the general population and didn’t want to lose it until they’d been officially recognised as a country. It would be a delicate operation and needed to be started as soon as possible.

Sherdan had already partially planned for this moment. There was a set of instructions to ensure the act of taking more territory went as smoothly as possible. Nathan had been asked to lead the operation to start with and had been briefed on the subject more than once. He had an enormous amount of patience and people warmed to him quickly, so Sherdan felt he was the perfect choice.

Although he would never admit it, Nathan was the closest thing he had to a friend after Hitchin and he wondered if it might be because of the man’s ability. He could hear a lot of Sherdan’s thoughts and therefore knew him better than most other people got to the chance to.

Once he’d finished pouring over the map of the area and pinpointed where they were to expand, he took his suggestion to Graham. He wanted a second opinion about the defensibility of the area as they had to use their shield emitters wisely.

It took another two hours to go over everything with his command team before Sherdan was happy with the preparations. They agreed to get started first thing the following morning and give everyone what would hopefully be another good nights sleep so they were fresh for the challenges the task might present.

Sherdan went back to his retreat to pack up and go home. He hesitated, noticing that the paperwork he’d left behind had moved. He frowned, not sure who could have been in the room.

He was just about to collect everything up when the door opened. A gust of air ruffled the documents on the table as Hitchin walked in.

“I know, I know. I need to come for more tests.” Sherdan held his hands up.

“That’s not why I’m here.” Hitchin smiled, “I’ve had another successful batch of recruits. They’re all alive and have developed powers. One in particular is very interesting. All animals come to her when called. They seem to understand her.”

“All animals?”

Hitchin nodded and Sherdan finally gathered together all his loose paper. He had an extra spring to his step all the way back to his home.

Anya was in his study. She hardly acknowledged his presence but continued drawing in a note book.

He had no idea where she’d found either the pretty, flower patterned sketch book or the box of artistic pencils which lay open beside her. He frowned but she didn’t notice.

Sherdan sat down opposite her but she still didn’t say anything so he watched her draw. Her pencil flicked almost effortlessly across the paper in quick, gentle lines. He couldn’t see what she was drawing.

“You left the compound?” he asked. She looked up confused. “To get your art supplies.”

“No. Nathan found these for me.”

“Nathan?”

“Yes, your security guard. He noticed I was bored and, when I told him I was an artist, he had some materials fetched for me.”

“You talked to my guards?”

“Of course. Both they and I are alone here all day. I talk to them frequently… Will you be here tomorrow? It’s Sunday and I always miss company most on Sundays.”

“I have things to do tomorrow. We are claiming new territory.” Sherdan smiled as Anya looked at him again. She bit her lip.

“What are you going to do?”

“Take new territory. We were attacked,” he explained.

“What about the people living there?”

“They’ll have to move. It’s an unfortunate consequence but it can’t be helped.”

Anya frowned again and went back to her drawing. Sherdan sighed. She didn’t approve and surprisingly it bothered him. It seemed no matter how much time passed she didn’t soften towards him and his plans.

Sherdan contemplated taking some more forceful measures but everything he could think of would drive her to leave instead.

“Why are you still here?” he asked, breaking the silence again.

“I don’t know. I don’t really want to be but I don’t feel like I can leave yet.”

“I cannot stop you, you can leave when you wish… of course I’d prefer you not to.”

“It’s not you stopping me.” Anya smiled very briefly before resuming her picture. Sherdan couldn’t get her to say much for the rest of the day. He gave up after dinner and returned to his work instead.

Sherdan’s Prophecy: Chapter 24

“Sherdan, are you there sir?” the radio squawked, breaking through Sherdan’s dreamless sleep. At first he couldn’t place what had disturbed him. “Sherdan, sir, please respond.” He grabbed the radio.

“I’m here, what is it?”

“We’re being attacked sir, you’re needed in the command bunker.” He was out of bed before the sentence had been finished.

“On my way.”

He hurriedly yanked his clothes on and ran into Anya’s room, noticing that it was still dark outside. Even though he wanted to leave her in her peaceful sleep he shook her awake. As soon as she saw the concern on his face and sat up.

“We’ve got to go.”

She grabbed the dressing gown he handed her and got out of bed. His eyes went straight to her bare legs but she didn’t notice.

“Is it another attack?” She looked at him, expectantly. He nodded while she stuffed her feet into her slippers and followed him.

“The residents have all been informed sir.” The radio came to life again.

“Have it announced several times. Many will be sleeping deeply.” Sherdan fired back to the command room. He took Anya’s hand as they rushed down into the house and toward the secret passage.

She yawned as she hurried along beside him. It wasn’t even six yet. Sherdan had a headache from such little sleep but he felt wide awake. The adrenaline had got rid of the sleepy feeling he’d had when he first woke up. By the time they were in the compound the same had happened to Anya.

She tried to follow him into the command room but he pushed her back and shook his head. He didn’t have time to explain to her why.

The camera’s were all a haze of coloured thermal scanning images. One of the assistants was doing a third intercom announcement while the commander, not even fully dressed, was already passing orders to the security team.

More transport planes had already flown over, dropping almost one hundred soldiers. That had been a quarter of an hour ago.

As they had done the first time, the guards were rounding up as many soldiers as they could as each one landed but they didn’t even catch a third this way. Sherdan’s men rushed around as best as they could, but in the dark, with very limited help from the command room, they struggled to see the soldiers.

To make it harder, the troops didn’t all head towards the same destination as they had before and. Instead, they all went towards six separate, easily defensible locations, meaning the groups of soldiers got larger more rapidly.

Half an hour later, only ten more soldiers had been stopped and taken to one of the five prison areas. Sherdan couldn’t help but get angry at the circles the soldiers ran around the guards. He banged his fists down on the desk in front of him a few times.

He knew he had to change strategy.

“Nathan, have the prison buildings go down to only eight guards each. Lead the rest to help capture the enemy,” Sherdan said into the radio. Having eight in each would be enough to defend against the biggest soldier groups so far.

“Done sir,” Nathan replied a few moments later.

“Thank you. Send each new squad of guards to the nearest house the soldiers are trying to get to. I want you to take your team towards my house. There’s eight closing in on it and only the two security inside currently.”

“Is Anya there sir?”

“No, she’s safe here with me, but I would still prefer my house to remain untouched.”

“I understand sir, on my way.”

The soldiers took their time travelling to Sherdan’s house as they were more cautious in the dark. They were only just at the front lawn when the first few guards came to join the security already inside.

“We’re there sir. Should be enough of us to keep your house safe now.”

“Thank you Nathan.” Sherdan sighed with relief. He had not been sure it was his own men coming up to the house from behind.

They needed a better way of telling their own guards apart from the soldiers on the night time thermal cameras. At the moment the command room had to check it wasn’t guards they were looking at before telling them where to go. Twice now they had surrounded their own men. Sherdan almost threw the microphone when it happened a third time.

The soldiers near Sherdan’s house began shooting the second they saw the security coming out the door towards them. They had soon emptied their ammo clips.

“They are all drawing knives and other close combat weapons, please advise command?” Nathan said, shortly after.

“Keep your distance. Another squad is closing in from behind. They will surrender soon.” Sherdan replied. He didn’t want anyone to be hurt unless absolutely necessary.

What Anya had told him the night before came back to him, making him frown. If she ended up being right their relationship would go backwards again.

“If they move to attack, shoot for the legs rather than allow yourselves to get hurt,” he added. It was the first time he’d ever told them retaliating was allowed. He hoped no one lost their heads.

“Only if there’s no alternative.”

Thankfully the eight enemy combatants soon realised that knives wouldn’t help them against the thirty plus team of guards that were hemming them onto the lawn of the house. They surrendered.

Nathan and the rest of the squads moved in to slap wrist bindings on each of them but one soldier hadn’t finished putting his knife down. He lunged out at the nearest guard, Nathan. A responding fist soon knocked the idiotic man to the ground.

He swore and then apologised. He only had a scratch down his right arm but he immediately got ordered off operational duty to report to the medical section. The captured men were taken to the nearest prison along with three more stragglers the guards picked off along the way.

As it got a little brighter the guards headed for the next target; nine soldiers in a civilian house not too far from Sherdan’s.

The house had a small group of young adults locked in an outside shelter. They’d radioed in to say the soldiers had not realised they were there, but Sherdan didn’t want to give them the chance.

The guards ran over under cover until they were only a few metres away. Forty of them stormed the house, again to weapon fire from the soldiers. Sherdan was listening to this happening on the radio when Graham called to him.

“Sir, there are more planes on the radar coming our way. Lyneham again.”

“They’ll drop more.” Sherdan frowned. If they dropped the another eighty soldiers his security would be outnumbered. He grabbed the microphone for the country-wide intercom.

“The UK government is trying to overwhelm us with numbers. Anyone between the age of twenty-one and fifty who wishes to help defend please safely make your way to the nearest prison facility. Do not come alone and do not engage any enemies.”

All the people just rescued instantly requested to help. At the guard houses they were fitted with shield devices and given easy to use hand guns. Each one was then partnered with one of the trained guards. Hopefully it would give the illusion that they were trained security but they wouldn’t need to do anything.

Sherdan made a mental note to accept more military type applicants and get more security trained. This was only the second attack of who knew how many and they already ran the risk of being overwhelmed.

As soon as the guards had captured the soldiers within the house, Sherdan had them scatter and look out for new paratroopers. The growing light would aid them.

While the guards dealt with the new soldiers as best as they could, the residents who wished to join all slipped over to the nearest security hub. With the soldiers already on the land in centred pockets and the rest still in the air, the residents all managed to move without meeting any resistance.

Just in case, Sherdan had two of his command team focus on watching the residents on the cameras to help keep them safe. The last thing he needed was his citizens to get hurt.

Sherdan was shocked at the number of residents who responded. Over three hundred turned up at the five security buildings; there weren’t enough personal shields to go around. Everyone that could be protected was sent out. The remaining fifty eight stayed at the secure centres to help lock up all the incoming prisoners.

With all the extra man power, as well as the new light of day, the task soon got easier. As with the first attack several days ago the soldiers were captured in ones and twos and locked away.

By eight there were almost two hundred soldiers being held. There were still another forty-three in four separate locations. Sherdan had the men split into two and pick off two more of the groups.

One group of eleven were taken without a fuss. They hardly even used their weapons as it was soon apparent it didn’t work. The second group proved more stubborn.

They were holed up in one of the civilian homes and the young child in the cellar had cried and alerted the soldiers that there were people under the house. The soldiers started prising the door open. The family radioed it in and the guards all raced into the building.

Sherdan gritted his teeth as he stared at the three cameras focused on the outsides of the house.

The family were safe, a little panicked, but safe. It had been close; too close in Sherdan’s mind. He had the guards head straight for the other two buildings occupied by soldiers, even though another set of planes had appeared on the radar.

Sherdan noticed the soldiers with dogs on the edges of the country didn’t even bother trying to get in. They were waiting for the people inside to let them through, once they’d secured locations inside. They would have a long wait.

As the planes flew overhead and dropped their third and largest load of troops, Sherdan had the guards clear the shelters in all the homes that had been rally points so far. The last two sets of soldiers had all tried to go to the same six fixed places. He figured the third would do the same.

He smiled when the guards managed to re-secure the final location and take the owners to the nearest safe shelter. Hopefully it would ensure they remained unharmed. At the least, it would give them some company during the attack.

As before, the security spread out across the whole country, following soldiers in the sky to capture them as they landed. This third wave was even bigger than the first two had been but the extra help still meant half the soldiers were captured and neutralised before they could really move.

They parachuted down and were surrounded before their feet had even hit the floor, often being pinned inside their own chutes.

Sherdan then had the guards all move straight to the nearest of each of the six suspected destinations and wait inside to capture soldiers.

The command room finally calmed again and people sat back down instead of rushing between desks and monitors, including Sherdan. The soldiers were followed on the camera as they walked into buildings full of guards who had their guns aimed and hand ties ready.

Rather than move, the soldiers were held inside as more paratroopers arrived. It was the most effective strategy yet. Less then fifty minutes had passed when all enemy combatants were safely locked up.

Congratulations were echoed everywhere and a buzz of excitement spread as it approached nine. Sherdan even took a moment to check on Anya who had got into the bed and looked fast asleep.

Despite there being no more immediate danger he didn’t allow any of the guards to stand down yet. Each wave of fresh soldiers had been just over an hour after the previous, and there were still a few more minutes to go before a fourth group could appear.

He watched over the radar himself this time, eager to see if the RAF sent any more. The rest of his command team milled around and took a break, passing croissants and cups of orange juice around to anyone who wanted them.

Several minutes passed. Sherdan was about to order everyone back to their normal tasks when dots appeared on the radar again. Everyone sprang to life; the guards watched for parachutes and the commanders manned their stations.

They waited for the next assault, but it didn’t come. The planes flew over a few times, each pass a little lower than the one before, but no soldiers emerged. Less than ten minutes later Sherdan was watching their dots on the radar turn back the way they had come.

It appeared this battle was over. With reasonable ease they were yet again the victors. When everyone had patted each other on the back and praised the guards on the radio, Sherdan got back to the running of his country.

There were some changes he wanted to make: he wanted more personal shields as well as a much larger military division of his own. He had not liked being outnumbered and how close they had come to discovering the civilians.

The ideal solution would be to stop the troops parachuting in but until there was an ability that helped, short of putting emitters everywhere to hinder soldier movement there wasn’t yet an ability that would help.

Sherdan had everyone informed that the attack had finished and normal working life could begin. He went back to Anya, who had been woken by the public announcement.

She yawned and blinked a few times. Although she didn’t say anything, it was evident from the look on her face that she was getting weary of the constant assaults. He hoped the residents didn’t agree with her.

This time he didn’t bother phoning the prime minister again. If the attacks were going to stop they would call him and until then, Sherdan wouldn’t release the soldiers with all the information they had gained for them to inform their superiors.

There was also the noon, satellite broadcast to prepare for. What he said would make waves among the British public. He prepared some notes back in his study then went through applications checking for people suitable to go on security.

A new group of acceptance letters were sent out for a new set of residents to join them on Monday. They would all have to be secretly brought into the country but that wouldn’t be difficult. They had planned for the possibility.

Anya went to the living room to watch the TV when he had to turn the study into a mini broadcast centre and video link with the news. Ten minutes later the news started. Sherdan watched as they went through all the other pieces. They always left the more important report until last.

A lot of the footage from the night before was shown again and the reporter told everyone about the latest attack. Sherdan was introduced and the link his face was shown to the millions of people watching. As usual, he was thanked for his time.

“Please tell us what has been happening at your end during the attacks?”

“Not very much. The British military have tried to invade us twice now, simply because we’ve refused to recognise our land as part of the United Kingdom. Despite the attacks, no one has been seriously hurt on either side. All the soldiers that parachuted in are now in our prisons.”

“So the attacks have been completely ineffective?”

“All they’ve done is fill our prison cells.”

“What do you intend to do with those captured?”

“When the British authorities have stopped, and agreed to accept Utopia as a country, we’ll let them all go home.”

“And if the attacks continue?”

“The soldiers will remain unharmed as prisoners of war, however, we don’t like being at war. All we want to do is live our way. Our no harm policy seems to be making people think we’re weak, therefore, every time we are assualted, we’ll expand our borders by ten square metres, taking more territory, for every soldier sent and weapon used.”

“Won’t that harm people?”

“Not physically no. However we will act in a way that shows we mean to be listened to and respected.”

Sherdan wasn’t able to say any more. The news reporter cut him off and the show ended. He’d said enough, however, and knew it would give people something to talk about.

He went back to the applications. The government would try to invade again and Sherdan would extend the perimeter, taking another chunk of Bristol. Then the new citizens arriving would all have somewhere to live.