"Sixty years ago, our grandparents founded Beadley Colony as the bulwark of resistance against the Triffid invasion. Humanity's last hope as disease, hunger, blindness, and predation drove all the world to the brink of extinction. They entrusted us with their knowledge. They relied on us to continue what they had begun. They depended on us to reach higher than they could by standing on their great shoulders. Tonight, the Reconquest begins.
"Remember what Dr. Masen always said: The triffids are smarter than we think. Underestimating them was Governor Beadley's greatest regret about the days after the Fall. Remember what his daughter General Masen told us: They learn fast, and never fall for the same trick more than a couple times. We need to be fast, decisive, and creative. We need to think on our feet and never let up the advantage. We're going to be waging most of our battles at night because the Triffids will be weakened by lack of photosynthetic energy, but be prepared to keep up the battle at any moment of the day or night, because we need to be pressing, pressing, pressing. There are parties like ours scattered across the beaches of the British isles, but I want us to consider ourselves to be the only ones who matter. If we're the ones who destroy every Triffid on the mainland, I won't be complaining."
"Just think, Henry. When we destroy the triffids, all England will be for the English again. I hear there are parts of England where they still practice monogamy. Can you imagine? Even the word sounds naughty. Just you and me and none of those awful jills to share you with. Oh, monogamy. You know, back in the old days there were people who didn't just practice monogamy, they were celibate. No fucking at all. I read it in a book. They were called nuns, and even though they didn't, you know, `perpetuate the next generation', they weren't stigmatized at all. I can be more than a baby machine. Yeah, it will be thrilling. When Julian comes by looking for a little fun, I can tell the little shit to sod off. Not now, not ever."
"We're sending children out to die, General Masen."
"I was 11 when the triffids attacked. I lost my parents and my little brother in the immediate aftermath. I spent years of my life just barely hanging on against their onslaught. This invasion isn't some little jest of mine, Hannah. I didn't order it because I was bored on the Isle and looking for something to do. If some of us die in the next days, they will die protecting their race against a fiendish intelligence that has come damnably close to eradicating the human race."
"They're still children. They're too young to decide for themselves if they want to fight your war."
"It's not my war. I'm sixty six years old. I'm not going to get to enjoy the fruits of my victory for long. They're fighting for their future tonight. They're fighting for the chance to live their lives outside of the colony, however they want to live it. The invasion is just as important as D-Day seemed to my parents."
"Sometimes I think you're going to live forever, Susan."
"Boys and girls, our enemies have adapted to attempt after attempt to rid the English countryside of their menace. That is because we failed to learn from history. Why was the atom bomb so successful against the Japs? Not because it leveled a city in one shot. Because it rendered the city uninhabitable afterward with its radiation. We survived the Blitz and rebuilt London immediately. After effects mean that long after your attack, you keep hurting your foe.
"What my team is hunting for in this laboratory is the weapon that will have the same effect on the triffids. We can firebomb them to eternity, but their seeds will spread and they'll return, cleverer than before. They learn from their failures, and I warn you not to underestimate them. We need to salt British soil with something that will keep them from ever returning. Think of the Irish and the damage the Potato Blight did to them. And we need to do it quickly and forcefully so that they're gone before they can mutate. I've given my life to this pursuit so that you boys and girls won't have to."
"Are you scared? I'm scared fucking shitless. There are millions of those vegetable cunts out there, against a few thousand of us. One way or the other, it's going to be a bloody nightmare. For us or for them. I think I'm coming down with a case of the vapors. This isn't going to be like one of our cheerful Easter Triffid Hunts. They're going to be everywhere and they're going to be coming after us. Organised and deadly. And if we flinch, just for a minute, it's over with. Make no mistake, Bill, people are going to die tonight. Good people, people who don't deserve to die."
"Aunt Susan told me about the old days. She was young when it happened, you know. Only 11. But she still remembers. Cars were everywhere, a thousandfold more cars than we have people in the colony. And there was no petrol hoarding. You just went to a petrol station and bought as much as you wanted. They never ran out. You didn't have to make all of your own food, either. You could go to a shop and buy that, too. Not everyone had to work out in the fields all day during the harvest. Everything was easier before the triffids came.
Fair Brittania was the center of the world. We'd just won a World War. The whole continent of Europe looked to us for guidance, and so did large parts of Africa. True, we'd had to surrender India to the natives, but our influence there was still strong. Our military was second only to the Yanks. When we destroy the triffids, we can turn our attention to rebuilding that Empire."
"Henry? Have you ever asked yourself a question you regretted asking afterward? And the night of the invasion, too. If these triffids are as smart as they say they are and as well-organized as they're supposed to be, aren't they just like us? Is it morally justified to exterminate an entire species? I know, they tried to do the same thing to us. This planet isn't big enough for both of us. We're not even sure they're intelligent, they might just be mindless automatons. We've tried to talk to them for decades without success. But still, don't the triffids have a civilization of their own? What right do we have to wipe them off the face of the earth? I don't know why I said that. I'm sorry I brought it up. I shouldn't have dragged you into my crazy whimsies. It just struck me. I wish it hadn't occurred to me."
A few dozen men and women are gathered around a bonfire. The main fire is ringed with stones, licking and crackling up to six feet in height; but behind, and around the party, is a second ring of fire, about fifteen feet out. Large, live branches were arranged about their circle, doused with fuel, and lit with a flamethrower. A four foot gap permitting exit or entry is carefully guarded by a pair of guards with shotguns, relieved at regular intervals.
A short, beefy man in a stiff cotton shirt is speaking. Periodically, the inner fire flashes and all can see his face clearly: the bushy black mustache and cleanshaven, strong chin, the thin, characteristic scars on his cheeks that they almost all bear from triffid stings, the one distinctive scar on his forehead from the nearest miss of all, the mouth whose bottom lip is half-puffed up in a fierce distortion, so that he looks like nothing else but a mushroom omelette.
"Tonight, the Reconquest begins."
They pour out of the fire ring in groups of three, so quiet even a triffid won't hear them until they're in striking distance. In their wiremesh masks and treated fireproof cotton bodysuits, they look like the world's most dangerous beekepers. In each section, a point man with a flamethrower leads the way, ready to herd triffids with the deadly spray. The triffids were taught many skirmishes ago to fight in loose enough groups to avoid devastating flamethrower attacks, but they still turn in fright from these salvos.
In Squad Alpha, Gertrude takes point, darting out into the woods in irregular, staggered sweeps. Her night vision is better than anyone else in the regiment and for the past week she's been kept blindfolded during the day so she can't lose her acclimation to low light conditions. All of their generals, remembering the Catastrophe, argued against it but she had volunteered. This was what her whole life had been preparing for.
Then she stops and raises her phosphor-smeared glove to signal silently to her squad. Julius and Henry take up positions beside her, surrounding the lethal plant. On a nearly invisible hand signal, they spray the triffid with the solution in their backpacks. The massive plant looks first like a wheat stalk shaking in the breeze, then like a geriatric patient trying to walk, then it collapses in an inglorious heap.
Gertrude winks and carves a notch on her belt with her knife. Then she lifts up her flamethrower as her partners shoulder hefty shotguns. They don't have long to wait before a trio of triffids catch their sight, their stems loudly tapping out a war cry.
During the Second World War, Lancaster bombers sallied out across the English Channel by the score in a gallant counterattack against the Blitz. Nobody bombs London and gets away with it, they were saying. Nobody but our own. Tonight, salvaged Lancs are flying again over the Channel. This time, London is their target. Their payload is Bill Masen's lethal cocktail to destroy the triffids.
They're flying by moonlight on this cold December night, just as those old bombers did before the Catastrophe, when the greatest threat to mankind was a maniac with a mustache. The English countryside today is much darker than it was back then. Much lonelier. So it goes.