The Bug Squad

For the most part, those who were left had been driven towards the sea. There were some villages and even the occasional small town in rural locations that had not been overrun, but they were in isolated places. Many of the population not killed in the first wave had fled to the south coast with the intention of trying to get to mainland Europe (some had even tried swimming the channel, with disastrous results). A few thousands had escaped via the Welsh coast amidst rumours of places offering sanctuary in southern Ireland but for those sheltering in the south-eastern counties, there was no chance of getting to Ireland. Even for the army large parts of the interior of mainland Britain were practically no go areas.

What remained of Porter’s regiment were deployed in Brighton and Hove. The fighting around both Shoreham Harbour and Brighton Marina, two of the few remaining available disembarkation points for small boats on the south coast, had been fierce. The Pavilion had been used as a temporary shelter for refugees but attacks on it had intensified and in the last, probably a hundred people had died. Instead, the regiment had been setting up a series of smaller safe houses amongst the coastal towns nearby and were escorting small groups of refugees along the coast from safe house to safe house, often at night, as they tried to inch their way towards escape.

Porter and Minkowski were not directly escorting refugees but providing sniper cover along the seafront. They’d been effective against small sorties when there were only three or four attackers, but when larger groups attacked the snipers quickly realised it was far more prudent simply to act as spotters and then lay low, not draw attention. Porter was in a residential block on King’s Road, whilst Minkowski was on the top floor of the Holiday Inn a couple of hundred metres along the seafront.

Porter and Minkowski were half of the original Bug Squad. They were at school together in March 2017 when the British Government triggered Article 50. A year later, as the rioting started, they met Djalili and Vernon at Aston University and the four became close friends. Djalili’s sister was killed in one of the first serious incidents of violence between Leavers and Remainers in 2019, when it seemed like the whole country had lost their mind. When the Brexit Troubles escalated and the University cancelled all courses so they could fortify the building, part of the so-called ‘War on Experts’, the four young men decided to enlist hoping that they could play some small part in restoring peace to the riven nation.

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A very short story about random encounters in a coffee shop

You’re sitting in Starbucks with a friend, just idly chatting about this and that; not anything in particular, just a conversation sparked off by a chance remark. Starbucks is full but that’s okay, you’re just passing the time of day and enjoying the chance to catch up with a friend.

Suddenly, a stranger comes and sits at your table with you.

“Start again,” he says. You look at him, not quite knowing what to make of either his sudden appearance or strange demand.

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