Sherdan stayed with Anya until very late that night. She’d been shaken by everything that had happened and didn’t want to sleep. Now that he knew she’d been having nightmares he wanted to make sure she had calmed before he left her. Even once he’d gone to his own room he left the door ajar to hear if anything disturbed her again.

Whether she slept well or not, nothing woke him until the alarm went off. He stayed with Anya at her request, working in his study rather than the command room. She sat near him and read, trying not to disturb him.

In the afternoon he had to leave her and sneak out of his facility to travel to London again. Anya asked if she could come too but he refused. He didn’t want to put her in danger yet again. He didn’t add that he wanted time to think.

Sherdan had been a lot more panicked the previous day about Anya than he’d expected and wanted to keep her safe from the British Government. She’d captured his heart even though she continued to keep him at a distance. She’d show the odd sign of affection but not allow him to do anything that would imply a romantic attachment of any kind.

He’d finally gone to the medical ward in the morning. The three from the previous batch were there along with all the new ones. He’d still not been able to see a single power in any of them and right before his eyes someone from the new batch had turned the water in their cup to ice.

Sherdan’s power should have shown him that at least a few moments before but it hadn’t. When it hadn’t worked on Anya he’d not been that concerned. She had a different enzyme, but it should have worked in the ward. It should, but it hadn’t, and he had no clue why.

There would be problems if the powers stopped working or faded over time. However, both he and Hitchin had been sure that the change wasn’t reversible, though for short periods it could be inhibited.

He had to put it from his mind, despite his worry, and focus on his next interview. The same TV channel as before were interviewing him again.

Sherdan allowed himself to be led through the same routine of make-up and preparation. He even had the exact same slot on the program.

He grinned as he thought about his announcement, especially when the security he’d brought with him informed him the police were already at the studio. They wouldn’t get to him in time, not with the rambling building he was in.

Within seconds of thinking this he was directed up onto the stage to take his place ready for the interview.

“Thank you for coming again Dr Harper.” Emma turned to him with a polite smile on her face.

“Thank you. I talked of surprises last time I was here. I actually have one I’d like to talk about.” Sherdan took control straight away.

“What would that be?”

“As of now the area of private land owned by myself and the residents in my facility is an independent country.”

“I’m sorry, Dr Harper, I don’t quite understand. How can it be an independent country?” She looked at the camera and off to her colleagues at the side, confused and obviously hoping they would feed her information via the scrolling text screen.

“Well, it’s quite simple really. Anyone who owns land who has a permanent population and a means of negotiating on a diplomatic level with other countries can declare that fixed land independent. I have done everything required on behalf of all my residents and we are now an independent country called Utopia.”

“Have you been planning this from the start?”

“Yes, close enough to the start that it might as well have been.”

“Are you still accepting applications?”

“Yes, of course. They will become applications for citizenship followed by everything else we were offering before.”

“Legally, isn’t being recognised as a country very difficult?”

“It can be, but I think we’ve satisfied all the official criteria and, with our technology, people will have trouble stopping us.”

“That brings me on to some rumours. Am I right in thinking there has been at least one attempted raid on, what is now, your country? The police are denying it. Is it true or not?”

“Yes, late yesterday evening twenty police managed to make it through our perimeters. Most via a helicopter. Our guards managed to escort them all back out again with very minimal harm. I believe there were only a few bruises and wounded egos, despite the police opening fire when unprovoked.”

“I imagine that it won’t be repeated?”

“No, anyone caught trespassing, unless they’re military and the country of origin negotiates for their return, will be prosecuted by our courts for breaking the law as would any other country in the world.”

“Thank you Dr Harper.”

Sherdan smiled as he took a different route out of the studio and bypassed all the police waiting for him to try and arrest him yet again.

He had help from some of the TV personnel with his escape route. Many people thought he was a hero, especially with how the police were treating him. The authorities were chasing their tails as far as he was concerned.

He hurried his driver to get him back to his new country as soon as he could. He needed to monitor the reaction to his announcement and could only do so from his home or compound. There were a number of possible outcomes; the most violent being if the UK tried to send the army to invade. If they did so before he got back he’d be very angry.

Ten minutes later his phone rang. Graham greeted him from the other end.

“Sherdan, sir, the army are assembling at each one of our barriers. At the moment they seem to be waiting. The prime minister of the UK has phoned. He wants to speak to you.”

“Tell him I will speak to him as soon as I get back. Let me know if the military make a move and warn all the residents to stay inside and prepare their shelters until we know what response we’ll get.”

“Yes sir.”

“Oh and don’t let anything happen to Miss Price. Have her shown where the spare bunker is in my house.”

“Of course sir, anything else?”

“I’ll be back as soon as I can be.” Sherdan hung up and ran his fingers through his hair. He then encouraged his chauffeur to drive faster and to head straight to the safe house with the tunnel.

He drummed his fingers on the armrest while he waited. He needed to do something. Flipping open his laptop he connected it to the internet via his phone and requested more information with email. Within minutes he’d received a reply.

The army are still waiting. They’ve not said anything to the guards. I’ve had the security equipped with the larger guns from the armoury and they are manning each barrier to show we mean business. We are waiting on your return, Nathan.

Sherdan sighed and sat back. It appeared that the Prime minister did want to speak to him before taking any serious actions. It only made him feel a little better, however. He wanted to be back.

Half an hour from Bristol his phone rang again.

“Sir, we’ve found out that the police are checking every car coming into Bristol to try and find you.”

“Tell Scott to get the train ready.”

“Already done Sir. It’s the only way in, currently.”

Sherdan informed his driver to head to a small yard off the track in Saltford, a little village off the edge of Bristol. He smiled to himself. The police were always a few steps behind.

When the car pulled into the deserted yard there wasn’t any sign of the train yet. He got out of the car and let it head to Bristol without him. The train pulled up less than five minutes later. Sherdan hopped straight into the drivers cabin and shook hands with the driver.

“We are sorry for the delay to this train, there was a signal fault but we should be in Bristol Temple Meads in less than ten minutes,” Scott said to his passengers. He then handed Sherdan a uniform and a fake pass to look like an employee. Another car would pick him up outside the station and take him into his country.

He shook Scott’s hand again when they arrived and slipped him a cheque for two thousand pounds.

“Cash it quickly. If it doesn’t work let me know.”

Scott nodded and they went their separate ways. Sherdan moved with the people through the station in a similar manner to Anya over a month before.

His heart rate increased when he used his employee pass to get through the barriers, but only moments later he sank into the back seat of the new car. Nathan had the driver’s seat.

“Home as quick as you can without drawing attention to us.” Nathan nodded and drove through the quieter than normal streets of Bristol. Sherdan sighed as he walked into his house, less than twenty minutes later.

“What’s going on?” Anya demanded as soon as she saw him. He kissed her full on the lips, taking her by surprise, and then grabbed her hand.

“Come with me.” He led her down the tunnel to the command bunker in a very similar manner to the night before. He explained about the army along the way. She’d watched the news report so she already knew why they were there.

“Does this mean I’m a citizen as well?” she asked. He smiled.

“Not really, more of a refugee. We’re not officially recognised as a country yet either.”

“How long will it take?”

“It depends what the UK does and if the UN decides to recognise us as a country.”

Sherdan asked Anya to stay in his safe room again before entering the main command area.

Everyone was already at their stations and monitoring the perimeter and skies. Sherdan went up to Graham and got him to pass on any information that he didn’t already have.

The screens on the end wall all featured similar pictures. His guards patrolled every entrance into the country and the British army sat less than thirty metres away, stopping anyone coming in or out. They had guns and dogs, as well as armoured vehicles at the major exits.

The soldiers just sat and waited. They stopped anyone coming too close but other then that they simply made their presence known. Sherdan told the guards not to engage them in conversation and then focused on his residents.

The commander had done an announcement requesting them all to stay indoors, except in an emergency. He had also asked them to prepare their bomb shelters, just in case. As far as Sherdan was aware they had all obeyed.

Sherdan’s final order of business was returning the phone call from the prime minister. He’d left a number for Sherdan to phone back on.

He picked up the nearby headset and put in the numbers. There was an audible click after only a single ring.

“This is number ten downing street, who’s calling?”

“This is Dr Sherdan Harper. The Prime Minister called me almost two…”

“Wait just a moment doctor.” Sherdan was put on hold. He sighed as he waited. This conversation wasn’t going to be easy.

“Dr Harper. You made it back safely.” The PM, Mark Jones, broke the silence.

“Yes, I did. Despite some futile attempts to stop me.”

“I received your letter and watched your interview on TV. Very impressive. I must confess that I didn’t really believe the letter until I saw you on the news and had a report from the police.”

“I am always very serious when it involves the well being of my citizens.”

“I understand. It’s their well being I’m concerned for as well.”

“Did the police report you were given have much detail concerning the recent arrest attempt?” Sherdan asked.

“No, it was only meant to give me an overview.”

“I would highly recommend you make sure you have the full report of that before you make any decisions about me and the other people here.”

“Why don’t you tell me yourself?”

“I’m afraid that would take too long.”

“Well, I would like to request that you stop this fight for independence and allow me to consult with your residents on what they really wish for.”

“I won’t stop. If it helps ease your mind I can forward the document I have signed by every one of my citizens as I offered to do in my letter?”

“Forgive me if I don’t take your word for it. I have the British army surrounding the area you have blocked off. I again suggest that you stop this fight for independence and allow me to consult with your residents. I will request the army assist me if necessary.”

“Before you do I strongly suggest you dig deeper into what happened with the failed police raid. I’m very determined and force will not dissuade me.”

“Dr Harper, I’m warning you.”

“I can forward some of the camera footage if you wish? In fact, to prevent you risking the lives of all those troops, I think it best to do so. I have your personal email address.” Sherdan began tapping away at the computer in front of him.

“How on earth do you have that?”

“That’s not important. I’ve sent you some of our footage of the police raid. I’d also like to add that, as a country, I will consider it an act of war if you send troops into my land.”

There was silence for a while. The prime minister was obviously watching the video.

“Thank you for sending this over Dr Harper. I will continue this conversation with you tomorrow if that’s convenient?”

“Of course. It’s always convenient for me to help the world see Utopia as a new, valid country.” There was only a click in reply to this final statement. For now there would be a stalemate but Sherdan had the upper hand. The Prime Minister hadn’t even been properly informed. Knowing your enemy was one of the first rules of warfare and so far everyone kept underestimating Sherdan. They were making it easy on him.

There was an excited buzz in the command bunker after the phone call. They had only heard Sherdan’s side of the conversation but it had been enough for them to work out that Mr Jones hadn’t got what he wanted.

They all waited for another ten minutes, watching the perimeter cameras to see if the army did anything. They didn’t.

“Sherdan, we’ve just had a message from one of the conservative MPs,” Graham called across the room. “Mark Jones has called an emergency cabinet meeting.”

“Good, tell me the second they decide on something. Send the MP some money.” Sherdan tapped away on the computer some more, scrolling through a few more cameras. He didn’t think anything else would happen that evening and called for silence in the room before pressing the intercom button for every house in Utopia.

“Thank you for your patience in this trying time. We now feel that it is safe for you all to move as you wish again. We would recommend caution but I have spoken to Mark Jones concerning the presence of his army and for now he is assessing things. We’ll know more tomorrow. We do not expect to be attacked or raided at this time. Thank you again for your patience.”

There was applause from the room as he turned the intercom back off. He gave out a few last instructions on when and why to disturb him through the night and handed the reigns back to his security commander.