The 10.04 left Lewisham heading into London with the usual mishmash of assorted characters.
As normal, the train had arrived late and the platform had been subjected to Hipster Girl telling her friend at loud volume on the phone just how much 'deem white girls can’t shake deem booty' whilst Suburban Mum behind visibly restrained herself from covering the ears of her precious son; Suburban Dad oblivious behind the top of the range baby buggy carrying child number two.
A carriage space over, the posh toffs, obviously come down from Blackheath and catching the train at Lewisham to avoid the Greenwich Saturday tourist rush, talked loudly about associate's business dealings and indiscretions – the difference between the two sometimes quite slender. Near 'Chad' and his entourage, Metal Head and Goth Girl only had eyes for each other, wrapped in their black fleeces despite the bright sun and promise of hot weather.
The two Arab men with their backpacks and stern expressions garnered looks from around the platform as they arrived just before the train and got a perceptible space as they boarded.
Chad’s cronies bagged the last seats and they carried on talk of city dealings and just what Suzanne had been doing in the boardroom as Suburban family weathered the shrill voice of their already bored offspring.
Arab man one and two retained a tight grip on their bags as the train pulled into St John’s Station and Hipster Girl got reinforcements.
By New Cross, the train only got busier. Suburban Dad apologised for running over his own foot with the buggy to an old dear who nodded and hoped no one would notice her hearing aid was playing up.
The train was slow as it passed Millwall – an Arsenal fan giving it a one finger salute in passing.
As to be expected, the train cane to a halt outside London Bridge, halted at a signal. One of the Arab men took his backpack off and stretched.
Loud giggles echoed as Hipster girl and friends continued their tirade and a second mum hushed her daughter asking for a toilet break.
Metal Head and Goth Girl were in their own world in the corner, lips ever so close together. The other Arab man sighed and also removed his bag, taking off his jacket and loosening his shirt.
An inaudible announcement had the regulars rolling their eyes and the old dear striking up a disjointed conversation with Suburban Dad.
The train jolted, sending old dear stumbling.
Metal Head somehow was aware enough to catch her as the train moved again, and old dear graciously included him in her conversation as they pulled into London Bridge station. No one got off and everyone was a little more cramped as more got on.
The train set off, pushing through Waterloo East where the crush eased a little as those who were headed for the Southbank disembarked.
Both Arab men shouldered their bags as the train crossed the Thames and Suburban family positioned themselves to lead the charge, Suburban Dad galvanised by the opportunity to take charge after forced inactivity.
A final slow crawl into Charing Cross ... And the doors opened, disgorging a flood of people, mostly all headed for Parliament Square and today's rally.
Arab men lead the charge as Suburban family had to struggle the buggy off. Hipster Girl gang took a right and headed down to Embankment as Chad's gang set off towards the front; Metal Head and Goth Girl lagging behind in the crush to help old dear get her bag down.
As the wave of people departed the station, largely taking the turn into the top end of Whitehall, a pair of uniformed Police officers noted the two Arab men and discretely tried to move into step behind them as the crowd continued southwards.
Passing a hustling pub, Chad and followers took a step into a narrow alley. For a moment all four looked at each other, all holding their designer bags tightly.
Chad gave a formal nod, as if a sign of 'let's get to work’ when there was a sound behind him.
“Watcha got there?”
Metal Head lurched up to Chad, standing a little too close and peering at the bag. Chad could smell a little alcohol on the breath, despite the comparatively early hour.
“Nothing for the likes of you. Or your girl.” He added, noticing Goth Girl further back.
“Aw, c'mon, man. Surely you must have some stuff in there.” Metal Head nodded at the bag, “something to make things go with a bang .” The emphasis on his words made it clear what he was looking for and he turned to Goth Girl who nodded bright-eyed.
“There is nothing for you. Get lost, hippy.”
“You must have something for a hit, man.”
“Get fucking lost.”
“Harsh words, man.” As Metal Head spoke, he straightened, suddenly gaining a couple of inches and there was a steel to his gaze that matched his posture.
“What the ...” Chad didn't finish as Metal Head gestured sharply with his down-turned wrist and a compact metal baton appeared, snapping out as he whipped it into Chad's stomach. Chad gasped harshly and filled over as the baton came up against the side of his jaw and he dropped to the floor, bag spilling to one side.
“Shit,” yelled one of the entourage and leapt at Metal Head, pushing him away from Chad and in to the wall.
Entourage number two pulled a knife and took a step towards the wrestling duo when he heard a metallic snap. Goth Girl held her own baton low.
“One chance to give up, boys.” She murmured.
“Fuck you, bitch.”
Number two swung the knife and Goth Girl raised her baton deflecting the blow. He tried again with a similar result.
Metal Head took hold of entourage number one and brought a knee up sharply. The intake of breath was strained and Metal Head took the opportunity to bring the baton up under his chin with another sickening crunch.
Number two, reeling back from the deflection, tried an overhead stab. Goth Girl stood her ground and depressed a catch on the baton releasing a spring action prong from just above the handle; it’s appearance now that of a lopsided sai. She deftly caught the downward swinging blade and twisted. Number two found his arm twisting to the side. Before he could steady himself, Goth Girl stepped up to him, and pivoted, snapping her other elbow round and into his temple. The impact sent his head whipping to one side and Goth Girl continued to pivot for a second before pushing back, this time thudding her elbow into a cheek bone. Number two gave a cry and dropped the knife, instinctively teaching for his face. Goth Girl stepped back, using the momentum to bring her baton round low and into his abdomen.
Metal Head stepped into a perfect axe kick and slammed the slouched number one into the ground. As Metal Head landed his foot, Chad pushed himself up from the floor and tackled Metal Head forcing him back against the wall with a grunt.
As number two fell to the ground, number three stepped up to Goth Girl, hands raised and fists clenched. He swung with his right and Goth Girl brought the baton up, cutting into his knuckles with the prong. Ripping it away, she swung her classic steel toed capped boots into his knee then ground her platform sole down his shin. Number three’s leg collapsed under him and he fell to the ground, next to his buddy.
Metal Head and Chad were grappling; Chad managed to get a couple of body blows in before he noticed the ache in his knuckles – whatever he was hitting felt hard - far too hard for a normal fleece top. Then he felt a hard jab at his kidney and recoiled. Goth Girl slammed her baton again into the same kidney then smartly stepped aside as Metal Head got his hands onto Chad’s collar, dropping his baton to do so, and throwing Chad against the other wall. Chad fell to the floor and didn't get up.
There was a second of silence then the gasps and whimpers of the beaten men.
Goth Girl looked around; by the pub a slightly tipsy and more than slightly overweight man blanched and stepped back out of sight. She looked back to see Metal Head rummaging from the pockets of each of Chad’s men in turn.
“Haven’t got long,” she said curtly.
Metal Head grunted and continued collecting mobile phones.
As he collected the last phone, the sound of a vehicle rose above the distant growl of the crowd on Whitehall and a nondescript van pulled up sharply. A half dozen men spilled out and hurried over, four carrying large peli-cases and the other two shaking out plastic cuffs.
Goth Girl was kneeling by the open bag now. “No visible timer, remote detonator, no obvious kill switch,” as she inspected inside Chad’s smart bag, seemingly not fazed by the mix of wires and metal and plastique and had anyone else been looking, missing the Hollywood staple of a ticking clock.
Metal Head was busily dismantling the phones, pulling batteries out of each in turn. The first of the peli-cases was opened and Chads bag was carefully placed inside, padded interior holding it tightly. As it closed, the Faraday cage built into the case prevented any electromagnetic signal passing in or out and it was carried to the waiting van, at a brisk but very steady pace. The other bags were in turn loaded into their own cases as the remaining two men, in official polo shirts and semi smart trousers that screamed ‘government agent’ applied the cuffs to each of Chad and his gang in turn. Two of the other agents returned and all four bodily hustled Chad and cronies into the van
One nodded to Goth Girl and Metal Head as they recessed their batons and re-affixed them to forearm mounted holsters, hiding them under their Kevlar weave lined baggy fleeces.
Both nodded back and watched Chad get bundled in, the agents squeezing after.
The whole thing had taken no more than a minute
Nevertheless, as Metal Head and Goth Chick returned to Whitehall, two uniformed police officers stepped onto the pavement ahead of them, Tipsy behind the officers. The van began to return the way it had come.
“Tha’s them, officers” slurred Tipsy. “They was mugging them gents … wherever they’ve gone?”
“Now then, what’s going on here?”
The two uniforms had determined the Arab men were just meeting their respective families and had come back, with words like ‘racial profiling’ and ‘affirmative action’ echoing in their heads when a bald, slightly tipsy and definitely overweight gentleman hovering outside a pub had caught their attention
Metal Head stepped up a little.
“Morning officers. Nothing more than me and my lady friend stopping for a quiet moment before entering the rally.” Chad and his cronies wold have been a little surprised that the conspicuous West London drawl Metal Head had used when approaching them had now swopped to an Oxbridge tone, a little incongruous with how Metal Head looked with his long hair and baggy black combats.
The older of the two officers looked past Metal Head and could see a van disappearing away down the street.
“The gentleman,” he gestured towards bald and tipsy who was waving his phone, “claims he saw you and her getting into a fracas with a group of men.”
“Who you see here Officer is who is here. Nothing else going on.”
Bald interjected. “Wait, I got proof. Took a video on my phone.”
Metal Head turned to him. “I think you may be mistaken, there hasn’t been anything here for you to witness.”
“Lemme get it up and show you’s.” Bald looked down at his phone, stabbing at the unlock screen. Metal Head traded a look with the officers –really? - who looked back impassively.
There was a noticeable pause as Bald got into his phone and clicked onto his media.
“Look, last thing I took.”
He pressed the screen then held up the phone to the watching men.
The video started looking at the pub then looked out across Whitehall, the sound of the crowd passing in the video mingling with the continued crowd passing behind the group. The video swung around, a little blurry, and stopped as it reached Metal Head and Goth Girl headed for the alley. It followed them a second before obviously zooming in on Goth Girl’s rear end, panning to follow them as they disappeared into the alleyway. The video went blank.
“What?” Bald went. “Hey, where's the rest of it?” He caught the look of one disgruntled boyfriend and two disapproving police officers and averted his gaze, desperately swiping through his media library. “Where’d it go?”
Metal Head coughed. “Officers, we’d like to move on now.”
“Yes sir,” said the lead officer. “You two take care now.”
Goth Girl waved her phone at him before grabbing Metal Head around the arm and stepped off, shooting Bald one last look of pure disgust.
As the pair re-joined the crowd, leaving Bald wilting under the stares of the uniformed officers, who were having a bad start to their shift, Metal Head leaned in close.
“That was close.” His accent was back closer to the West London drawl.
Goth Girl nodded. “Thank God the hacking app worked. And that our onlooker was a creep.”
“I’m impressed you didn’t clock him one. I’m reasonably certain those officers would have ‘blinked’ and missed it if you had.”
“Tempting though it was, we still actually have a job to do. The posh toffs and their bombs should have been picked up by CO19 already.”
Both heard the voice come through their ear buds, looking like a brand name wireless in-ear but the R&D department of that brand would have given a lot to get their hands on this particular model.
“I’ve already sent feelers out to our counterparts on that.” The voice was commanding. “Good job on dealing with them promptly. And for minimising the scene afterwards.”
“Watch Dog works well.”
“Caitlyn, I have asked you not to call our custom software that.”
Caitlyn, Goth Girl, rolled her eyes at Metal Head who smiled back as the voice continued. “In any case, the other teams are in position. Targets are approaching Parliament Square now. Lots of public with today's rally, alongside the well-meaning but uninformed men and women of the Met.”
“No worries.” Replied Metal Head as they passed the turning to Downing Street. Both he and Caitlyn reached into pockets and put on sunglasses. “We’ll be in position, despite the interruption.”
There was no sign off – both knew that the links from London’s CCTV network, alongside their own discrete camera feeds were live.
Caitlyn smiled, just a little like a shark. “So, Harry, should we get to work?”
Metal Head – Harry – smiled back and they stepped into a bustling Parliament Square.