The hostess encouraged people into their seats as Sherdan moved to the front of the train. He would need to change into a drivers uniform and alight with the driver. He didn’t want to raise suspicion too soon.
The driver was none other than the man who’d picked Sherdan up on his last train journey. He would come with them this time. His family were aboard the train and also joining them.
Sherdan had soon put on his new uniform and was standing with the chauffeur as the train pulled up. He couldn’t help but smile at what would happen over the next few minutes. So many people were going to be so surprised.
The train pulled to a stop in the station and Sherdan jumped down. He glanced around before hurrying towards the back entrance. He could hear other people beginning to disembark behind him. The hostesses on the train would also act as guards for everyone following him.
He pulled a radio out of his pocket as soon as he crossed the border of his land.
“I’m back. Proceed with the plan,” Sherdan commanded. He stepped out into the road as his usual car came sweeping up. It drove him straight to the command bunker where everything was being coordinated.
His men would already be overseeing the arrival of the new residents. He was eager to go head up the task before getting back to his home and Anya. He’d not seen her properly for several days and he found himself missing her even though it saddened him that she was so distant.
He snapped himself back from his thoughts of Anya as his car stopped and his chauffeur opened his door. There was work to be done and he had a responsibility to all those eager, happy people he had met today.
The smile on his face was broad as he walked into his command room. It remained fixed as Graham filled him in on what had happened during his journey. He could see everything that followed on the screens. Rows and rows of people walked into his country, while the army just stayed and watched. They could do nothing.
It only took half an hour for all the new residents to arrive. They were driven to their new homes where they were given the evening to settle in and explore their new country. He’d had welcome packs made up for each new home and the guards were out on the streets patrolling the new areas especially.
Sherdan stayed in the command room even though he wasn’t needed. He expected the army to attack again after what he’d done. There was no doubt that if taking the houses had made the Prime Minister angry, then sneaking in almost one thousand UK citizens would tip him over the edge.
If he had any sense then he wouldn’t attack Sherdan again as it would only lead to more of the same, but Sherdan didn’t expect him to think like that. They would attack again, he was sure of it.
While he was waiting, Sherdan went to see Hitchin. It was gone five in the afternoon but he knew Hitchin would still be working. The labs were his second home; perhaps even his first.
Hitchin was with the latest residents to take the enzyme when Sherdan arrived so he waited for his friend to finish. He didn’t have to wait long. Hitchin was not the kind of person to ever keep someone like Sherdan waiting.
“So, shall we go do those tests now?” Hitchin asked, before Sherdan could say anything.
“If it’s all right, I’d like to talk over something else first?” Hitchin raised his eyebrows but motioned for his friend to continue. “Will you go through your second vision with me again, the one concerning Anya?”
“Of course, if you wish.” Hitchin went to his desk and unlocked the top left drawer. He pulled out a small journal and came back to Sherdan with it. “I have it here, I wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget anything important.”
“Tell me it again.” Sherdan smiled trying not to show his anxiety or doubts. He didn’t want Hitchin to realise he wasn’t sure of the whole thing. Although, he had no idea why he was so uncertain.
Hitchin repeated the whole vision again in pretty much the same way he’d told it the first time. Sherdan sat, listening and hoping it was true. He was more concerned about winning Anya than he was that his ability had gone, although Hitchin was evidently more worried about the tests and soon turned the conversation back to that subject.
“The good news is that you’re the only one who seems to be losing their ability. It doesn’t appear to be wearing off for me or anyone else from the earliest groups.”
“So I’m an anomaly?” Sherdan asked.
“There’s no way to know for sure yet. It’s possible that whatever gave Anya her power is having an affect on you. If it was something in your house, perhaps. Without a working sample of her blood it’s hard to say. It could just be that you’re overworked and tired.”
Sherdan smiled as he nodded his understanding. He felt relieved that at the least it only appeared to affect him. Everyone else was growing in their abilities. More tests would reveal what was wrong.
As Hitchin had requested last time, they went straight for an MRI. While he was lying, being scanned, he thought about all the things Hitchin had told him in the last hour. Anya had them both confused even if Hitchin didn’t want to admit it.
She kept claiming everything was her God. Whatever it was that had brought her to him and given her an ability, despite her not taking the enzyme, it seemed to want her to have the upper-hand and wasn’t going to allow him to control her.
He had only one option open to him. He’d have to win her over the old fashioned way, with romance.
Hitchin wanted to do further tests after the MRI, but before Sherdan could let Hitchin study his brain further they heard the sound of an explosion. They were being attacked again.
Sherdan leapt up and ran towards the command centre without even saying goodbye to the scientist. The assault he’d been expecting had finally come. The radio in his pocket called for him just before he pushed open the door and walked into the command room.
“Bombs and missiles, no paratroopers yet,” his commander said swiftly. Sherdan nodded and went to his station, awaiting further information.
The rest of the evening flew by in a haze of bombings. As usual, the army was completely ineffective. The only problem that arose was calming the new residents who got scared.
A few of them left their houses and refused to go back inside until Sherdan dispatched a security team to help calm them down and get them back to a safe place. The patrols had stopped only half an hour before the attack.
By the time Sherdan could leave his duty station and go back to his home and Anya it was almost midnight. He didn’t expect her to still be awake. As normal, his work was getting in the way of spending any time with her. He knew it had to be this way but his heart felt heavy nonetheless.
He went to pour himself a drink and take half an hour to unwind before he slept. He could sit and think of ways to endear Anya to him.
He had just got comfortable in his favourite chair when he heard the soft pad of familiar feet on the carpet. He looked up to see her in the doorway.
“Good evening. You’ve been very busy,” she said. He smiled.
“I’ve had a lot to do. I think the worst of it has only just begun, however.” Anya nodded. “I’m sorry. I’ve left you alone a lot.”
“That’s okay, I’ve been watching what you’ve been doing on the news.”
“Have they said much?” he asked. She laughed and nodded.
“Yes, I’ve found out more about your plans watching TV than you’ve ever told me.”
“I like to surprise people.”
“Maybe. I think that you’re not used to trusting people.”
“You’re probably right.”
“So what’s next?”
“More of the same. While they continue to attack we will continue to expand. I hope the UN will recognise us before it gets too out of hand. Our case is stronger now we have both extra ground and over fifteen percent more citizens,” Sherdan said, being truthful with her.
“Well, I best get some sleep and let you do the same.” Anya walked towards the door.
“Stay,” he called. She stopped and looked at him expectantly. “I’m not tired yet and I’d appreciate some company.”
After a brief pause she came to sit near him. There was a silence as she simply sat still and waited. He racked his brains for something to say to her.
“How is your art going? Do you still have everything you need?” he asked. She hesitated before nodding.
“It’s going well, thank you for asking.”
“Good. I know it’s hard for you to be here. If there is anything else you need or want to make things easier just let me know.” Sherdan smiled as she looked up at him.
He’d surprised her and he hoped it had a lasting impact.
“Can I see some of your work?” he asked. She nodded and went over to his desk. He hadn’t noticed before now that her sketch book was lying there. She passed it to him and sat back down.
He smiled at her as he opened the first page. On it was a relatively simple sketch of a vase of flowers. They were roses but the petals looked like they were melting and dripping onto the surface below. He flicked to the next page where there were just a few doodles of patterns and single items. He recognised one of them as being the pattern on the ceiling in his dining room.
The third page held his attention for some time. It was a winged man standing on the edge of a cliff. Sherdan wondered if it was deliberate that it looked like him from behind. He wanted to ask her who she’d intended it to be but couldn’t bring himself to do so.
“Do you like them?” she asked. He looked at her to see her sitting forward. Her eyes darted to the pad and and back to his face. He smiled.
“I do. You’re very good,” he reassured her. She grinned. “Do you do portraits?”
“I… I’ve done some a long time ago as part of art school. People aren’t very easy though.”
“Would you consider drawing me?” he asked, suddenly.
“I’m not sure. I’ve not tried to do someone’s portrait in a professional capacity before.”
“Well it’s only a whim of mine. I doubt I’ll have the time to sit still and let you draw me for as long as you’d need.”
“You expect to continue being so busy?”
“Unfortunately yes. I’d like to try and spend more time with you, however.” Anya blushed a little. I enjoy getting away from work and talking to you.”
“All work and no play kind of thing?”
“Something like that, but I really do like being with you. I’d appreciate it if you’d consider helping out with the country while you’re here.”
“In the command room?” Anya asked.
“No, probably not. I only have my experts in there. It helps keep things simpler, and it would actually put you in more danger,” Sherdan lied. It wouldn’t put her in danger unless someone outside the country thought she knew things, but he didn’t want her in the command room. She was an artist and didn’t belong in that kind of place.
She nodded and the conversation ended. She didn’t ask where he had meant. He didn’t really know anyway. He only mentioned it because he wanted to give her a reason to stay and be happy here.
He handed the pad back to her and thanked her for the privilege of seeing inside. He made a mental note to look at her previous artwork on the internet. He felt sure he would find something online as she said she’d been making a living from it.
They talked about the news and the outside reaction to the recent things Sherdan had done for a few minutes before Anya yawned. He wanted to ask her questions but he realised it would be better to let her sleep. The nightmares he’d caused were making her tired.
“Will you tell me more about what’s in the news tomorrow evening?” he asked as she got up to sleep.
“Yes, if you wish.”
“Very much so. It helps a lot to know what people of influence are saying and I can only spare so much time to find out myself.”
“Then I’d be delighted to do so for you,” she replied. He got up and hugged her. She looked shocked but allowed it, although he wasn’t sure why he’d suddenly felt like doing so.
When he let her go, she stood in front of him with her eyes downcast. There was an awkward silence while he watched her fidget.
“Well… goodnight Sherdan.”
“Goodnight Anya. Wake me if you have another nightmare and need some company.”
She hesitated, then left. Sherdan went back to his seat and poured himself another brandy. He felt like he’d made a little progress but not very much. It would take a considerable amount of time to get her to trust him.
At least now he had a very good, work related reason to talk to her for a little while each day. He would do his job better knowing what was being said about Utopia and himself in the public sphere and get to show Anya he cared at the same time.
The important thing over the next two or three weeks would be to make himself special to Anya in someway. He didn’t entirely know how to do that but knew someone who would. Sherdan put down his empty glass and wandered through to see his security team.
“Nathan, have you got a few minutes to come to my study?”
“Of course sir.” Nathan leapt up and followed Sherdan back to the room he’d come from. Sherdan offered him a drink and a seat. He declined the first but took the latter.
“What can you tell me about Anya, Nathan?” Sherdan got straight to the point while pouring himself a third drink.
“Yes, I want to romance her, let her know I care about her, but I want her to think I’m genuine and none of my usual… methods, are working.”
“Do you genuinely care sir?” Nathan looked uncomfortable saying this but Sherdan was pleased he was so frank with him. He thought about the question for some time and sat down as well.
“I believe I do, at least I care for her more than I normally would care about a female. I’m not used to feeling particularly attached to anyone, however.”
“She’s a Christian. She’ll expect to be respected as such. You might start by listening to her about exactly why and what she believes. It will help her see you care for her as she is and that you’re not trying to change her into something else,” Nathan explained. He smiled.
Sherdan didn’t know whether to feel disgusted or agree. Nathan was right but that didn’t mean he liked the suggestion. So far he’d only told Anya he thought her beliefs were stupid and that wasn’t the most endearing of attitudes.
“I don’t have to believe in it too do I?” he asked.
“No, I wouldn’t expect anyone would believe that was genuine, but being a little more open couldn’t hurt. She’s an adult with a sensible mind. There’s got to be something important in her decision to believe in the Christian faith.”
“Well, open is something I can finally say I am. There have definitely been some things that even stump Hitchin, but I don’t think I believe in all this maker nonsense. Christians refute so much of the proven science we have.”
“Just ask her to explain some things about her faith. You might be pleasantly surprised.”
“Any other suggestions?” Sherdan waited as Nathan looked thoughtful.
“I think she’s bored and lonely. Your time and company would do a lot to help her. She also has a soft spot for animals, more so than a lot of people. I’d consider getting her a pet while she’s here. It would give her companionship. Maybe a cat, they’re lower maintenance and Anne likes them too.”
“Thank you Nathan. I think that’s a good start.”
“You’re welcome sir. If I think of anything else I’ll let you know.” Nathan got up before he finished speaking. Sherdan waited for him to leave and continued to think over what he’d been told. He didn’t like the idea of talking to her about God but he could spend a little more time with her and surprising her with a kitten would be easy.
He got up from his chair and went to his laptop straight away. He sent an email to the girl who could talk to animals and requested for her to find him a particularly affectionate kitten. He told her it was for a friend of his who was missing the family she’d left behind in Britain and he wanted to make her feel less lonely by giving her the cat.
With a much lighter heart, and a fresh plan, Sherdan headed upstairs. It was gone four again. He checked on Anya, who appeared to be sleeping better, before collapsing into his own bed.