The Locksley Exploit: Trailer
Paul Parsons shakes his head angrily. ‘What could Robin Hood’s Merry Men possibly want with the Holy Grail?’
It’s 2015, and Camelot and Sherwood are at war.
Stephen Mukherjee feels no qualms as the Chapel men and women round the corner. He and Blythe have right on their side, after all: right, polymer-coated steel blades, and the devices of two puissant and noble knights.
‘You there, stop!’ Stephen shouts, raising his sword in challenge with all the authority the Circle vests in him. ‘Put down your weapons and surrender!’
The Chapel’s lead man has his green hood pulled over his face, revealing only a firm mouth and stubbly chin. Even so, as he raises his longbow, nocks an arrow and gives it flight, jamming it firmly into the shoulder of Blythe’s armour, Stephen knows him.
The Circle, the UK paramilitary agency whose Knights carry the devices of the members of King Arthur’s Round Table…
The stuttered bellow of the guns is deafening – as is the shrieking of the building’s alarm – but the Knights’ shields and armour hold firm as they march like inexorable sci-fi robots across the open-plan office space. Through the choking cordite smoke Jory can see Paul’s emblem of three red bars, Stephen’s black-and-white checks, Transom’s elaborate sailing-ship, juddering with the multiple impacts. The burgundy upholstery’s taking a shredding from the swords, not to mention the gunfire, and there’s a computer exploding every few seconds.
…is hunting the Green Chapel, eco-activists allied to Robin Hood’s Merry Men.
Merry’s about to sing. She’s standing, her russet hair hanging about her shoulders like a copper-beech’s crown. She squeezes Jory’s hand and he slips away quietly, but everyone’s eyes are on Merry herself. Her poise admits no nervousness, no embarrassment at bursting into a song in a packed pub where many of the drinkers are complete strangers, as she begins:
‘The outlaws’ flag is Lincoln green,
the emerald of a forest scene.
Beneath it rests a martyr true,
enfolded in its fir-tree hue.’
For the Knights, this quest is personal as well as political: the Chapel’s leader, Jory Taylor, is himself an errant Knight – and he has stolen the Holy Grail from the British Museum.
‘Stop!’ Merry cries, jumping up onto a trestle table. Nobody pays any attention, obviously, so she reaches into her denim holdall, untangles the Grail from her spare bra and holds it up, yelling ‘Stop!’ again.
She leaps down and marches forward bearing the Grail aloft. ‘Knights of the Circle, peasants of the Green Chapel!’ she cries, raising her voice above the quietening melee as the combatants begin to spot what she’s holding. ‘You British Beasts and you, the Adam Bell gang,’ she continues, as the realisation spreads. ‘All of you, stop fighting! This is sacred ground!’
But this war is fought with modern weapons…
There’s a longish pause. Then Jory says, ‘Just consider it, Rev. They know about the Trip – they’ve been surveilling you with drones. They know exactly where your HQ is, and they’re coming just as soon as they’ve broken the back of your resistance.’
‘I never expected anything less,’ Cantrell says. He knows about the quadcopter camera drones – indeed, he knows that it’s reluctance to provoke international reprisals that’s kept the Circle from using larger combat UAVs on British citizens, rather than mere surveillance models. That reluctance is unlikely to last the duration. ‘Are we done now?’
There’s a long pause. Then Jory says, ‘Good luck, Rev,’ and hangs up.
…and nowhere – from the Circle’s Thameside fortress to a Bristol squat, from the oldest pub in England to a music festival in Cheshire – will remain untouched.
The unit reasserts its formation in the approach to the festival village, delicious smells eddying dizzyingly past the Knights as they crash along a parade of food vendors selling Arabic-style pizza, churros with hot chocolate, and authentic Tibetan momos. A site-vibing sculpture of a dancing couple is trampled in pieces under the outliers’ hooves; one horse bursts without hesitating through a canvas graffiti wall. Stephen himself draws his sword and, with a whoop, hacks down a jolly-rogered flagpole as he passes. This is the most fun he’s had since that time he got to lob some practice balls at Sachin Tendulkar.
And now the horses are in the open again, in a field fringed with booths and marquees, at one end of which a sign announces ‘The Village Tavern’. Joyfully, Stephen directs his steed in a wide arc, keeping formation with his brother Knights, and turns her head towards the whitest, widest of the giant tents – where even now a motley assemblage of men and women in hoodies of various colours, but with green predominating, are gaping in alarm, and scrambling clumsily to their feet to face the charge.
Before long, the enmity between its greatest heroes will tear Britain apart.
‘So raise the verdant banner high,
forever green against the sky!
Through winter’s chill and summer’s cheer,
we’ll keep the green flag flying here!’
The Devices Trilogy Book Two: The Locksley Exploit. Available now.