Mike Scantlebury - Science Fiction
 
   

"THE RAGGLE TAGGLE WAR"

S Y N O P S I S.

It is not too far in the future, but the nature of conflict has changed completely: Britain has thrown away its nuclear arsenal and committed itself to a policy of non-nuclear defence, that is widespread and pervasive, insinuating itself into all aspects of daily life.

Our hero is a man of few principles, caught up in the supply side of the defence industries, who finds himself making money out of re equipping the services. He is an angry and unhappy soul, having had a desparate youth, saved only by an innovative education at the College of Science and Invention in Manchester. There, he experiences a debilitating romance, that explodes when his lover is taken off by a Airborne Gypsy, the new breed of rootless adventures, taking to the skies in self inflating, self sufficient balloon homes.

His working life is soon taken over by contracts from the Ministry of Defence. Then he moves into developing the new 'sea cities', floating generating stations combined with chemical processors, moored far out at sea. He quickly makes massive amounts of money. He becomes self indulgent and decadent, then adopts a conventional marriage, and accustoms himself to a life of ease and game playing.

This cosy world is split apart by the first distant reverberations of war. To everyone's surprise, hostilities do not break out in Europe or the Near East, but much further afield. At first, there seems to be no danger, but like a line of dominoes, nations collapse and the warring factions tumble over the borders into Europe. Former partners are soon at each other's throats, and alliances are forged and broken in weeks, rather than years. Soon, casualties mount on every side, and all governments are fighting for their very survival. They begin suing for peace at any price.

Our hero is dragooned by his former employers into taking a sea city around France and into the Mediterranean, partly as an example and partly as a bargaining chip. But outside the Bay of Naples, his life's work is carelessly destroyed, and the man has to scramble back to safety in England across a war ravaged land, dodging tanks and bullets to the very shores of Calais. Crossing the Channel causes more international conflicts, and once back at home, he finds he can't escape his responsiblities, and is sucked into the ground battles, as first one and then another foreign army invades the country.

As soldiers clash, there is only one clear message: the government had been right. The new tactics are working. Still, the infrastructure is being slowly destroyed, and everything that makes modern life possible is disappearing.

The survivors are depressed, with nothing to look forward to but a life of toil and unrelenting drudgery. The answer curious as it is, is to come from the skies, from the very people despised and cast out by their previous masters. It is the Gypsies who bring hope back to the charred and broken land, and who offer a way of life that can cope with the devastation, and live within its constraints.

Wheels onlyUltimately, of course, our hero has come to terms with himself; he has lost his home and his wealth, and is once again at the bottom of the ladder. But he has skills that are invaluable in the new world, and is lauded and welcomed wherever he goes. However, none of that seems to matter a drop, since it is the hollowness in his heart that he has to fill. In his bitter and still angry way, he is happy to lead the resistance against the Gypsies since it means revenge for him. Yet the greatest miracle does happen; the woman that he loved and lost does indeed return. In the joy that that brings, he finds himself able to truly become human again, and the final struggle of the war, that was inside himself, comes to an end.

This is one man's story from World War III.

c. Mike Scantlebury, c.1991


 

 
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