My latest short story – Project Aegis.
6th May 2010 an event happened that has been declared a ‘sliding doors’ moment in British political history. Politician Nigel Farage was involved in a serious accident when the aeroplane he was using to display a banner crashed. If he had died then it is possible that Brexit would not have happened.
This story takes place the morning of the crash as a time-travelling hitman waits by an airfield.
As ever, if you prefer to read offline you can download a pdf copy of the story Project Aegis – Paul Blake
Project Aegis – Paul Blake
Owen Healy stood in the shadows, beside the open doors of the corrugated steel aircraft hangar. The cherry of his cigarette glowing as he took the occasional drag. He looked at the portable computer on his wrist for the time of the incident. The clock on it said it was just after 8am. Not long now, Healy thought as he looked out over the field to the tarmacked runway. He’d been there for the past two hours. He flicked the cigarette to the ground, it struck the concrete floor and flipped over, embers flared and then died.
The private airfield was isolated and relatively quiet. Perfect for a job like this. He’d watched the pilot of the small, dark blue with red trim on the wing ends and tail, single-engine, two-propeller aeroplane complete the pre-flight inspection, checking the frame, ailerons, tyres and the rest. Then beside the runway hammer in two poles twelve feet apart and then lay across the banner line between them. He then unwrapped the two-hundred-foot-long banner, due to trail the plane, and laid it parallel to the runway along the ground. Healy had been there when the day’s passenger arrived with another person. The passenger looked smartly dressed in a tailored pinstriped suit with a purple rosette on the lapel. He met with the pilot and then shook hands. They approached the aeroplane and boarded.
After a minute or two, the plane took off. The engine sounding like a swarm of bees. The pilot released the grappling hook, circle the airfield and attempt to hook on to the banner line. The pilot missed four times. The grappling hook waving wildly in the aeroplane’s slipstream. Healy’s computer beeped at him. I know, Healy said to himself. The plane came around a fifth time. Bobbing and weaving in the wind. It slowed as it approached the poles. When it was over them, the pilot increased the power and sharply pulled up the aeroplane. The flailing hook caught on the banner line and the banner followed.
Healy watched as the aeroplane levelled out. The banner twisted, and the plane’s movements became erratic. Healy could see the tow line of the banner caught in the tail. The pilot changed course. Flying a circuit to return to the airfield. Healy reached into his leather jacket and removed his pistol from its shoulder holster. He lowered it to his side, so the black metal blended into the shadows and the dark clothes he was wearing. The plane started its approach to the runway, slowing and losing altitude.
When the plane was about thirty-five or so feet above ground level its nose dropped. Healy could see the pilot fighting with the controls as it flew past. The passenger didn’t move. His face bone-white, a rictus mask of fright. The aeroplane struck the ground away from the runway. The pilot had managed to level the plane, but the rate of descent meant it hit the soft ground with force. An almighty noise. The impact separated the engine from its mounts and flattened the landing gear. As the fuselage touched down, the front section of the aeroplane dug in and flipped. Healy started walking.
He saw the passenger’s political party aide, and the airfield’s crew rushed to the accident. A photographer was taking pictures. As Healy got closer, he saw the pilot and passenger strapped in their seats, upside down by their harnesses. One of the pilot’s shoes were missing. They removed the passenger’s harness, and he fell awkwardly to the ground. He was moaning incoherently. The aide asked him if he was alright and received a few choice curses in return. The passenger gripped the plane’s wheel and pulled himself up, his aide assisting. He staggered away from the aircraft towards the runway, away from the hangers and administration building. Healy wasn’t sure if he even knew what planet he was on.
Healy fired. Once, twice, and the third time’s a charm.
Behind the passenger a man slumped to the ground, his own pistol falling from his hand. Healy walked past the passenger and knelt to check the man was dead. One of Healy’s bullets had hit right in the heart, straight through the centre of the azure chest patch featuring a circle of twelve embroidered gold stars. Feeling no pulse, Healy stood and turned.
“Fucking Remoaners, they have never respected democracy. They just don’t believe enough. You’ll be alright now, Sir Farage,” Healy straightened his posture and saluted to the passenger while shouting “Leave means leave!”
Behind the shell-shocked and bewildered passenger, the fallen body began to disintegrate and turn to ash. Pieces scattered in the light breeze. Healy holstered his gun and walked back towards the hanger. He fiddled with his computer as he walked. When he reached the hanger doors, a bright blue and purple portal appeared, and Healy stepped through. The portal closed behind him.
Healy came out the other side into a large warehouse. The light from the portal reflected off the walls, a flickering violet hue that Healy had always found beautiful. He marched out onto a platform and his portal collapsed into itself. The, now dim, warehouse was the size of a football pitch and hummed with electrical intent. A man in a shabby suit with a white lab coat over it rushed up.
“How did it go? Did they send someone? Did you see Him? Did He speak to you?”
“Calm down, Stevenson,” Healy said as he climbed down the steps to the side of the platform. “It was fine. Travelling like that really takes it out of you, you know. I’ll tell you the rest at the debrief. I need a shower and nap, I’m about to collapse. For now, all you need to know is that He is safe.”
“Well, that’s a relief. When we got the intel that the Remoaners were going to take him out, a lot of us were worried. I’ll tell the brass that the mission was a success. You go rest up.” Stevenson clapped Healy on the back.
“Did you say anything to the Lord?” one of the politicians sitting around the large semi-round oaken table asked. There were twelve sat there. All were middle-aged. All were white. All were English. The way it should be, Healy thought as he stood to attention before them.
“No, Sir, my orders were to say nothing. I followed them to the letter.” Healy looked at the Union flags on the desk. Miniature versions of the one behind the desk on the wall. The flag with fifty-one small stars and thirteen red and white stripes. The true union flag. Not the old one with the Celtic colours. Each country had declared its independence. Scotland was first, then followed by Wales. Ireland became whole. No great loss, Healy thought. Less of a drain on the English taxpayers.
“We are in the process of taking out the traitors,” another of the politicians said. This one was a shiny, round-faced man in glasses. “They wanted war, now they’ll find it. We’ll destroy them like my father did to the Nazi’s in World War Two. There will…” His face turned redder and shinier as he spoke.
One of the politicians next to him, put a calming hand down on his forearm, causing the puce faced one to falter, “You do your father proud, Mark. Damn proud. As do you, Healy. You make the whole country proud. Well done. Take a few days rest. We’ll have another job for you soon, once the generators recharge.”
“Yessir!” Healy beamed with pride as he saluted. “Leave means leave!” he shouted, then turned and marched out the room.
“Good soldier, that,” said the calming politician. “Could do with many more like him.”
Healy was laying on a towel enjoying the sun’s warming rays and the sound of the waves crashing on the stony beach shore when his wrist computer buzzed him. As he sat up, the noise of pebbles moving disturbed his wife, Anne, who was lying next to him.
“Who is it?” she asked.
“Work,” Healy replied. “Another job by the looks of it.”
“Who is it this time?”
“Bojo.” Healy always told Anne everything. They’d been together a long time and didn’t believe in keeping secrets. Healy knew Anne could be trusted. She’d kept the shame of him voting Remain secret all these years. Everyone deserves one mistake she’d told him. He’d made up for that mistake many times over anyway.
“Again? How many times is that now?”
“You’d have thought he’d have better security being Life-Prime Minister and all.”
“Well, it keeps me in a job, and keeps us living in this luxury.” He swept his arms wide at the private beach in front of him. It was empty except them. A perk of the job. Not that people wanted to go to the beach anymore. Put off by the chemical green tinge of the sea foam and the shimmering rainbow surface of the waves. The traditional English seaside holiday that boomed after the exit date died as the Government slashed unnecessary regulations that hampered English industry. The Healy’s had always loved the seaside, for the clean air and the peace, they just avoided the water now.
“That’s true. When do we have to go back?”
“We have a few hours. It’s not like time is going anywhere.”
“In that case, put some more lotion on my back,” Anne said as she wriggled back into a comfortable position.
I hope you enjoyed this story, thank you for taking the time to read it.
Twenty-seven of my other short stories can be found in my short story collection A Few Hours After This on Amazon – mybook.to/FewHoursEbook.
Paul Blake, London 2020