One of those grey government buildings. Long granite stones pointing 24 storeys high, pin prick windows punctuating each flood stacked on top of each other look like morse code, a thin white needle on the roof that strains to reach even higher. In front of it was a sparse courtyard with a circular shallow pool in the middle containing an ornate fish carved out of stone, standing erect in the centre, spouting water upwards that fanned out like an umbrella before dripping back down into the pool. It was decidedly ordinary but also foreboding; you could see why G.O. took it as the inspiration for the ministry of truth but also why Oswald Mosley planned to use it as the headquarters of the BUF.
Alex, Jean and Cephas were on the western edge of Russell square crouching in the few remaining trees to avoid being spotted by the patrols around Senate House. Alex was still wearing the jeans and t shirt from days ago, the jeans now ripped at the knees and the t shirt stained with The Governor’s blood. His white converse sneakers were discolored with water stains. His black hair was a mess, fluffy from having been recently submerged in water but thick and curly after days without maintenance, and the visible skin on his arms/face/knees was blackened with soot and ash. Jean was still in the stolen municipal workforce uniform, dark blue overalls and black heavy-duty work boots, only they were now in a similar state of disarray; fraying ankles and cuffs and stained all over with blotches of ash and blood, the boots were similarly scuffed; her shaved head was nicked with scratches from the razor and she had a black eye. So much for blending in. Cephas stood out the most, her Victorian dress now torn up to her waist, she’d had to rip away the petticoats when they got caught on the metal fence outside Founder’s Hall; she was barefoot and the soles of her feet were dark and calloused.
“I can’t believe we actually made it,” Alex whispered.
“I know,” replied Jean, her voice thick with emotion. A few seconds of silence passed and Cephas knew the pair were oh-so close to breaking point; any longer spent reflecting on the events of the past few days might allow them to reach it so she decided to re-focus them on the task at hand.
“We don’t have time for this now guys. He’s in there. We need to think of a plan. Watch that guard over there – see? See how he keeps disappearing into that booth?”
Cephas pointed one of her pale fingers to the patrolman who had just emerged from a green hut on the pavement on the north-west corner of the square. The colour of his uniform matched the grey of the building stones, topped with a black hat with a short brim and bottomed with the same black work boots that Jean was wearing. His gun was holstered at his hip and counter-weighed with a thick black truncheon on his other side. The hut he was leaving was in fact a shelter for the corner-watch to take cover from the rain (or the sun if it ever shone), and was empty save for a small wooden chair and white metal patio table, the guard’s thermos balancing on top.
The three followed his steps with their eyes for a few minutes. His patrol took him from the shelter, across the road, down four buildings to survey the South West corner, back across the road and back up to the shelter, across and then onwards to the fountain in front of Senate House, at which point he’d unclip the radio from his belt, say a few words, and then return to the shelter to pour himself another slurp of coffee before repeating the whole process again. Each cycle took four minutes thirty seconds to complete.
“So what’s the plan – we run past when he’s topping up?” asked Jean.
“Yeah, if we can get behind the hut while he’s in there he won’t see us until he reaches the other corner,” said Alex.
“Yeah good idea – we should make it just before he turns around.”
Cephas listened to the two skirt around what was needed to be done. She was exhausted of listening to them at this point; such weakness, such fragility, such naivety. She knew that to make it inside they would have to kill the guard and use his radio to lure any others into revealing themselves. That was the only way she could see and she was damned if she’d waste any more time listening to these terrible suggestions.
“If we can make it across to the fountain before he reaches the corner then we should make it up inside before he reaches -”
“Stop being idiots”. Cephas stood up behind the pair, stepping backwards from the edge of the trees. “You both know that there’s no way he won’t hear us running past. And even if he didn’t, there’s more guards outside the building – what do you propose we do then? Ask them nicely to let us in? Stop acting like fools.” She turned her back and made to leave the cover of the branches.