Chapter 1 : Number Ten
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Yet another long day was drawing to a close, ending what had been yet another week of nightmares. As the Prime Minister sat in his seat in his office, he couldn’t help wondering whether his life had been lifted out the scenes of a horror film. He definitely knew a horror film could easily be made with him as the central character.
He couldn’t help being overwhelmed by the now-omnipresent feeling of utter helplessness. The irony of his position was not lost on him. Here he was, “one of the most powerful leaders” of the “free world”, just a phone call away from the most powerful man on earth, and yet he felt as powerless as the average man on the street.
When he had won the election, he had never known he was signing up for all this. He had supposed it to be a more or less easy life. It had been, till last year. He had had a nice time, meeting Presidents, Prime Ministers, kings and the like. Life seemed to be getting back at him now. It had given him non-stop agony for the last twelve months.
It had all begun with the collapse of a relatively new bridge in Brockdale, killing many, and what was worse, giving his opponents a chance to catch him with egg all over his face. It was followed with a so-called hurricane in West Country, and horrific murders just few yards from this very office.
The Opposition had placed him over the coals for a whole two weeks. They had thoroughly embarrassed him in Parliament and – what was worse – on national television as well. He had been called an incompetent, a fool, and far worse things. He had become the butt of sarcastic jokes by all the leading daily editors. In fact, a straw poll conducted just last month had revealed that he was now the most despised man in Britain and the most ridiculed man worldwide.
He had become a laughing stock of other Heads of Government all over the world. The talk in diplomatic circles, he had been told, went ‘The British Prime Minister? You mean they even have one? The theory goes he’s just a piece of furniture pretending to be a human.’ And that was the best of the things being said about him, many of them unprintable.
What was worse was that he knew that these disasters had been engineered by a man, a “wizard” who answered to the thoroughly pretentious name Lord Voldemort. The Prime Minister had been told as much by the Minister for Magic, in whose purview the activities of the madman lay. But of course, he couldn’t tell this to the nation, or he would be labelled an incompetent and insane Prime Minister. There had been many Prime Ministers before him in the first category, but none in the second. He didn’t want to go down in history as the first British PM to be taken to an asylum. Though that would probably happen anyway, if things didn’t improve soon.
He looked back at the week that had just ended, which had been no better. Monday had been – unusually – a quiet day, with no incident. Then Tuesday, a nuclear plant almost blew up in Taunton. The incident had been avoided at the last moment by the timely intervention by two technicians, both of whom had somehow died in the process.
The Prime Minister had managed to keep the whole thing quiet. Not a word reached the press or the Opposition. He had slept peacefully that night, feeling that even if there had been a problem, he had at least avoided yet another political storm. But on Wednesday, in Parliament, an Opposition backbencher had dropped the bombshell of the year.
He had obviously learnt about the plant from a leak, and decided to advance his own career at the cost of the Prime Minister’s. The Opposition wasn’t going to spare him too easily on this. Sure enough, they flayed him. The dailies too had gone ballistic.
‘Prime Minister tries to conceal negligence at nuclear plant,’ ‘Prime Minister shoving nuclear plant near-breakdown under the carpet,’ ‘What else are you hiding, Mr PM?’ Editorials were written, many carrying phrases with big words like ‘Egregious cover-up of inexcusable negligence.’ The whole nation seemed to be baying for his blood.
As if that wasn’t enough, a mysterious, unidentified plague had hit large parts of Wales, dragging the Health Department into the arena for the entire nation to throw its eggs. ‘Government caught napping as unknown plague ravages Wales,’ said the dailies.
For good measure, fires had broken out in many parts of London, set off by incendiaries, rebels without a cause. The response was like a tidal wave lashing the walls of No. 10. It was as though the whole country had gone on civil war against the government. ‘Prime Minister losing control over nation’ ‘One fiasco after another’ ‘Beginning of the end for Britain?’ went some of the editorials. The press was demanding that everybody from the Army to the Secret Services be put on the case. One maverick editor had even begun talking of calling in the FBI from America, pleading for ‘external intervention.’
Exactly what we need at this moment, thought the PM. External intervention. Next they’ll ask to call Jesus down from heaven. Divine intervention.
It was the worst that could happen to a politician. He had been universally despised and ridiculed. His cabinet colleagues, instead of supporting him, had lost all confidence in him, and routinely disparaged him. The only reason his party wasn’t kicking him out – or upstairs, to the House of Lords – was because they had no one to replace him. No one wanted his job. That, apparently, was also the reason the Opposition wasn’t bringing up a vote of no confidence against him. Instead, they were torturing him daily in Parliament. The place had become, for the Prime Minister at least, a modern equivalent of the ancient Coliseum games of throwing the Christians to the lions.
Looking around the office, the Prime Minister couldn’t imagine what fit of madness had led him to aspire for this job, to run for this job. In retrospect, it had been a totally foolish decision. That his party had lost the upcoming elections was a foregone conclusion. He knew he wouldn’t be in this office next year. He just didn’t want his name to go down in the history books as the worst British Prime Minister of all time.
The phone rang, shattering the silence. He pressed the button for the speakerphone, feeling too exhausted to lift it. It was the Cabinet Secretary, who had been his only ally in this crisis. He had to be. Even his job was on the line.
‘It’s me, Prime Minister.’ What a silly thing to say, thought the Prime Minister irritably. If he couldn’t recognise the voice, ‘it’s me’ was absolutely useless, and if he could recognise it, the words were unnecessary.
‘Yes, Arnold. Speak.’
‘It’s been quite a long week, Prime Minister. A tad difficult, I would say.’
That’s a classic understatement for you, thought the Prime Minister. Very British. Very Civil Service.
Arnold continued, ‘I thought, why don’t I join you in your office for a nice brandy? There’s something we need to discuss. So if you don’t mind, should I come over?’
The PM would be happy for any company right now, and was about to reply ‘Yes’ when he saw the despicable froglike little man in the portrait in the corner stirring. He had come to dread the man, as his words had always brought the Prime Minister only grief.
The man was blinking at the Prime Minister, aware that he was answering the phone. The PM spoke into the phone. ‘Not now, Arnold. I’ve got some more work here. Let’s meet after about half an hour.’ He hung up and spoke to the portrait and without waiting for the man to speak, he said, ‘all right. Let’s get it over with,’ with the air of a man walking into the gallows and wanting it to do it as quickly as possible.
The man nodded. Instantly the grate below the mantelpiece went up in green flames. A man appeared in the flames, spinning like a top. No matter how many times the Prime Minister saw this happening, it never ceased to panic him. Not only was the sight alarming in itself, it had always been accompanied by major political bombshells, all of which had served to shorten his career. The PM knew that this visit could mean nothing good.
He had no idea.
Rufus Scrimgeour, Minister of Magic stepped out of the fire. He had struck the PM as a laconic, no-nonsense man. The PM had met him only twice before. The first time was just after he had taken over as Minister of Magic last year. The second time had been just about two weeks ago, when he had appeared with the news that Albus Dumbledore was dead. The name had kindled something in his memory. With a flash of horror, he remembered.
‘But… but isn’t he the only fellow You-Know-Who was scared of?’ he had asked, his face ashen. He had long ago understood the terror of Lord Voldemort, and more importantly, its impact on his voters. They could feel the negative vibes that Voldemort was creating, even if they didn’t know he existed.
‘I’m afraid so,’ Scrimgeour had said.
The PM knew what this death could mean. Political disaster. His frustration erupted as he shouted, ‘what were your people doing? How could you let it happen?’
‘Let’s not apportion blame at this moment, Prime Minister. I must leave now. I only came to pass the message,’ Scrimgeour had said. And he had disappeared, giving the PM the impression that the Minister wanted to run away as soon as possible.
That had been two weeks ago. And now, two weeks later, he was back here, before the PM. The Prime Minister tried to speak, but Scrimgeour silenced him with a wave of his hand.
‘Let’s not waste time on the pleasantries, Prime Minister. We have a job on our hands,’ said Scrimgeour.
Outside the house, the guards were at full alert. The MI5, which had just taken over responsibility of Downing Street Security, had increased the protection on the Street ever the London serial arson cases began two days ago. The man in charge of overall security tonight was Sir Franklin B. Myers, and he was as sharp and tough as they come. He had a weather-beaten face, flecks of grey showing in the black hair. His keen brown eyes were scanning the street for signs of trouble. He did not have a reputation for suffering fools gladly. No one in the MI5 ever messed with Franklin Myers.
He was known as a tough taskmaster, but was also very protective of his subordinates. He had been a Colonel in the British Army, and had served in the Falkland war, the last major war fought by the country. He had left the army after the war and joined the MI5, which had placed him in the security division. He was sitting in his armoured car opposite the street from Number 10, clutching his walkie-talkie, and taking status reports every fifteen minutes
He looked at the house. Like the rest of the country, he had no respect for the man who lived there. But he knew that the safety of his life was paramount. Having its head of government assassinated wouldn’t exactly boost any nation’s morale.
‘All right there, Cairns?’ he spoke into the walkie-talkie. Cairns and Clarke were the guards in charge of the PM’s house.
‘Yes sir’ said Cairns.
‘Good. And tell Clarke to get that cigarette out his mouth. No smoking on guard.’
‘Sir.’ He turned off the walkie-talkie.
Suddenly the silence was shattered by a series of deafening pops, like that of rubber tyres bursting. Myers picked up the walkie-talkie and spoke into it.
‘Tim and Geoff, go check that noise.’
Two young guards ran towards the direction from where the noise had come. There were two flashes of almost-blinding green light, and both guards dropped dead. A group of about twenty hooded people stepped into the light and began walking towards Number 10. Myers spoke into the loudspeaker. ‘Stop right there and give your identification.’
A green shot hit Clarke in answer. He dropped dead.
Another green shot took down Cairns. Myers spoke into his walkie-talkie to all stations. ‘Take out those cloaked guys! Quick!’ He dialled a number on his car phone. It was the MI5 cell in charge of security and tonight was manned by a person called Morris.
‘Morris. This is Downing Street. I need reinforcements. Quick. Get me everything you’ve got. We’re having a full-scale war out here,’ he yelled.
He was right. Two more men had fallen in the time he had been speaking. Myers didn’t know how the hoods had killed them, but he knew that they had to be stopped. The war had taught him to take the unexpected in his stride. That was his job.
He pulled his trusty Smith & Wesson out of his pocket, opened the door and took aim. He fired two shots. His aim was as good as it had been in the army. Two of the hoods dropped dead. That drew the attention of the other hoods to him. They looked at him, and shot their green flashes, which Myers had realised were fatal. He closed the door, rolled sideways and assumed a supine position on the front seats.
Six green shots smashed the window as they passed through it, raining glass shards at his legs. He winced in pain as they cut into his skin. He watched as the green rays passed inches above his body and exited from the window at his head, cold sweat dripping from his face. He had literally seen death flashing past him. He straightened, sat back at the window and fired another bullet. It hit one of the hoods’ legs. The hood fell back.
Even from this distance, Myers could see that it was a woman. She fell forwards on her face. Several guards had arrived from other stations on the street, and were joining the fight. The guards were not as good as suppressing their fear as Myers had been. Bullets went in awkward directions. Their aims were quite bad as they struggled to keep their hands from shaking with fear. Nine beams of green light streaked across the ground, six of them finding their mark. Six fell dead. It was too much for Myers. They were taking down his men!
He had an impulse to leap out of the car and fight, but he knew it would be suicide. He controlled the urge to leap into action. He had long ago learnt that wars were won by living and fighting intelligently, not by dying bravely. He took aim with his S&W, and hit one of the hoods squarely on the chest. The hood dropped dead instantly.
The hooded woman whom Myers had injured seemed to be leading the group. She was killing the maximum number of people. He could see that she had great stamina and endurance. She was limping and leading the charge just seconds after the bullet smashed her knee.
Myers knew that if they could take her out, the others would probably lose their morale. It had happened quite a number of times in war when a company of timid soldiers lost a strong leader. Myers bellowed on the loud speaker ‘Get the woman. Kill her.’ And he himself began shooting. He missed her twice. He hit two other hoods, injuring one and killing the other.
His men were not having as much luck as he was. They had managed to take down just three hoods, and they were being routed. They had been hiding behind car doors like police often did, but their reflexes were nowhere as good as Myers’s. And of course, the hoods were concentrating on them, believing Myers to be dead.
Myers had run out of bullets. He rummaged in the glove compartment, looking for them. By the time he had found them, all the men were dead. These hoods are fast, thought Myers as he reloaded his gun.
The limping woman led the way to Number 10. She ordered two of the hoods to stand aside and guard the door as she and the others entered it. Myers reloaded his gun and took pot shots across the square at the hoods. The woman, uninterested, walked right up to the world-famous door and blasted it off its hinges. She walked in, followed by the others. They disappeared into Number 10 Downing Street.
The reinforcements from the MI5 had arrived. ‘We’re here, sir,’ said their leader into his walkie-talkie.
Myers said ‘Good. Take out the two chaps standing at the entrance. There are more. They’ve gone in.’
‘By in, sir, do you mean –?’
‘Yes, my boy, they’re inside 10 Downing Street, so get sharp. Shoot.’
Bullets flew across Downing Street. But the hoods seemed to have some sort of yellow hemispherical fields around them, which stopped the bullets.
‘They’re not going to attack now. They’ve been ordered to defend,’ said Myers, deducing what the woman had evidently told them. He waited for the yellow shield to disappear, and shot. The hood keeled over. His partner was quicker than him in conjuring the shield again. The other agents were shooting at him, wasting bullets.
Myers told them to wait for the shield to wear off. It gave him a moment to theorise that these people may be actually using ultra-advanced top-secret weaponry. Their methods seemed straight out of a science fiction book. The question was, since when did terrorists manage to develop weaponry so advanced even Britain did not have it?
Suddenly, Myers could feel there was something wrong. Something in the air. While a few minutes ago there had been no wind, Myers could now hear a whooshing, sucking sound. It seemed to be getting colder. The car glass was frosting. Myers couldn’t understand why. It was July, not December. There was no conceivable reason for this. Something was out of place.
Suddenly, as though an invisible mallet had hit them all, the agents collapsed one by one. Myers felt a chill run up his spine. His mind was drawn forcefully to his memories of the war. Painful memories that he had suppressed were coming to the fore. His head started splitting in pain. He forced his mind to suppress these memories. Something in his brain had urged him to stop thinking these things. He knew he had the mental discipline for this.
He had realised that stirring up these painful memories was one of the tactics of those hooded terrorists, who had probably found a way to influence mental electric signals. He tried his best, tried to think of the opposite of these horrifying memories. He tried to dredge up memories that he could take pride in, that he enjoyed.
His tactics seemed to be succeeding partially. Though he could not stop the memories, he could still concentrate on the real world before him reasonably well. He gunned the car engine. All the agents had fainted by now. Myers drove towards Number 10, trying his best to keep his mind in focus.
The man at the door had not re-created his shield.‘Fool,’ said Myers to himself, ‘thinks we can’t figure out his mental tactics and fight him.’
He pointed his gun at the man and shot him dead, even as he skidded the car around so his door now faced Number 10’s. He got out and ran into the house. The place was in total disarray. But Myers wasn’t looking at the things there. His job was to protect the PM. He had to get to the PM’s office. He knew the plans of the building. He ran past the hallways towards the door to the office. Each room, each hallway was littered with dead agents.
When he reached the office door, he saw it had been locked from inside. He knocked on it repeatedly, but the door did not open. A hood came in to the room from the other side. Before the hood could act, Myers turned around and shot him dead. The sound seemed to have attracted the attention of the other hoods. They were running towards the room. Myers shot each one as they entered. He had killed four when the limping woman entered.
She was too fast for Myers. ‘Expelliarmus,’ she yelled. The gun flew out of his grasp.
‘You were the one in the car, weren’t you, Muggle? The one who shot me? You’re lucky I don’t have the time, or I would have tortured you more than you can even dream. For the moment though, this should do.’
‘Avada Kedavra,’ she shouted. The green flash hit Myers. He dropped dead. He had fought his last battle. He had not known it, but he had fought a greater battle than any Muggle before him.
Elsewhere in the house, two other hoods were searching for the PM’s office. One was a large figure and looked like a huge boulder. The other one was of a more average build. They had split up at the entrance of the building, where their leader had told them to look for the office. These two were looking in the same hallway. The smaller one slowed down and stopped in his tracks, as though he had found something lying on the ground.
‘What’s the matter?’ said the bigger one, and turned around. ‘Expelliarmus,’ the smaller one yelled in a strong voice. Something flew out of the bigger one’s grasp. ‘What are you trying to –?’ ‘Avada Kedavra.’
A flash of blinding green light ensued, accompanied by a whooshing sound, and hit the bigger man. He dropped dead instantly. Without giving him a second glance, the smaller hood ran backwards and into an adjacent hallway.
He kept running till he saw four hoods walking ahead of him. ‘Turn around,’ he said, ‘Bella’s found the office. Let’s get there.’
They turned around. He did not.
He shouted once again, his voice ringing with power, ‘Expelliarmus.’ Four long pieces of wood flew out of the four hoods’ hands and into the attackers’.
‘What the –?’ said one of them
‘It’s obvious what I’m doing, Nott. I’ve disarmed all of you,’ said the attacker. He had a mechanical voice, though the tone sounded mocking.
‘This is no time for jokes,’ said Nott.
‘Of course it’s not. Does it look like I’m joking? Try and laugh at this. Avada Kedavra.’
The green jet hit one of the hoods, a woman. She fell spread-eagled on the ground, dead. ‘Ladies first,’ said the attacker.
‘Who do you think you are?’ said Nott.
‘I am someone your Dark Lord has wronged. And I am taking revenge. You can call me … R.A.B.’ said the man slowly and softly.
He spoke again, ‘it was nice knowing you, Nott. Avada Kedavra.’
Nott dropped dead. The killer murdered the other two hoods, and ran back out of the hall.
He followed the general direction in which Bellatrix Lestrange had gone. When he finally reached her, he saw that she had actually made it to the office. She had infiltrated it. But for some reason, she was shaking her head in rage and disgust as she limped out of it.
‘The Prime Minister ran away. He was rescued. Probably by the Ministry or the Order. Someone tipped him off. There’s nothing more we can do here. Let’s get out. Tell the Dementors to leave. And send the signal to everybody to get out,’ she said in a disgusted voice.
The man next to her took out a black sphere out of his pocket. He pressed it. ‘I’ve signalled them.’ He said.
‘Good. Let’s get out now,’ said Bellatrix.
The attacker decided not to kill these two for now.
The three ran out onto the street. Bella looked around. At that moment, another group of hooded men ran out of the house. They waited for a minute. Bella was losing patience. Another fiasco, she was thinking. Snape will milk this for all it’s worth.
To take her mind off the disgusting man, she snapped, ‘where are the others? They should have been here by now.’
‘I think someone killed them,’ said one of the assembled men.
‘Who?’ asked Bellatrix.
‘I don’t know. But it was a wizard, whoever it was,’ said the man.
The man next to Bellatrix said, ‘that means we probably have a member of the Order or the Ministry in there. I say Bella, let’s burn up the house. That’ll kill whoever’s inside.’
‘Good idea, Greyback,’ said Bella. All of them pointed their wands at the house. Bella said, ‘on the count of three. One. Two. Three’
‘Incendio,’ they shouted as one. Instantly, the house caught fire. Flames twenty feet high began eating up the house. They were lighting up the black sky like a grisly neon sign. Satisfied with the signs of impending destruction before her, Bella said, ‘that’s it. Let’s leave.’
They walked away to the place where they had come from. There were several loud pops, and they disappeared, even as the house continued burning
The agents of the MI5 lay sprawled on the ground, just a few yards from the burning house, unconscious. The fire was spreading at an alarming rate. It engulfed the doors, the windows and the walls. It was a magical fire, conjured jointly by nine wizards, and it burned very quickly.
The Fire Brigade took about six minutes to arrive, but by then, they had nothing to do. Ten Downing Street, the residence of the British Prime Minister and one of the nerve centres of Britain’s Government, had been burnt to the ground.