Cofiwch Dryweryn!

Here’s a snippet from my upcoming book; “To get out of a Headlock”. The section below is still unedited, and I’m sure the Welsh grammar is deeply lacking, but it should give you the gist…

To be honest, you can understand why they harp on about the language.
Before the Rise, you’d have never expected the people of South Wales to choose Welsh as their lingua franca. After all, barely 20% of the population spoke it, and almost none as their first language. However, you can never underestimate the capacity of the British Government to screw things up…

As I recall, things came to a head in March. Not sure exactly when, but I know it was a significant chunk of time before the floodweek. Frankly, after that dramatic week of unbelievably fast flash-flooding in November, everything fell so completely apart that contingency plans and politics became completely meaningless.

You can imagine the thought process. England is sinking under the waves, especially the heavily populated bits. It’s becoming pretty clear that the entire East coast is going under too. Society is becoming scared and restless, starting to come apart at the seams… and then someone looks at a map – “What’s that country there, just over the border? The hilly one. Doesn’t that look like a good place to head for!”.

So it’s spring, and some bright spark is sat in an office, somewhere in the heart of England’s green and pleasant land. They put together a plan to promote wholesale evacuation to “our western neighbours”. A brief, poorly thought-out campaign announces the idea to the world with a simple, bold statement:

WALES: A new England!

I suspect the person in charge of that one was having an off day. Even so, they still deeply, deeply underestimated the amount of lingering anti-English resentment in this ancient Celtic land.

Response to the ill-advised geographical appropriation was swift and defensive. Wales-first groups, alongside members of the devolved Welsh parliament, protested loudly and visibly. Green Plaid Cymru colours became de rigeur, with several MPs from other parties jumping ship to the Welsh independence party. Several violent clashes occurred, especially in towns along the England-Wales border. During one demonstration in Oswestry several protestors died, blame being laid at the brutality of the English police in attendance.

Cofiwch DrywerynThe most definitive reply came from a small hamlet in the foothills of Snowdonia: Capel Celyn. A video went viral, starring a passionate Welshman in front of a lake, unleashing a vicious tirade in fluent Welsh. After a few minutes, during which he pretty accurately described the unfairness of the latest piece of English oppression, he finished with a statement: “Croeso i Gymru: Tryweryn newydd?”. Referencing the desperately unwise government slogan, he’d scathingly parodied it: “Welcome to Wales: a new Tryweryn?”

Capel Celyn is, or used to be, a village in north Wales. Back in 1965, in an act of extraordinary political insensitivity, the entire Welsh-speaking village was destroyed in order to build a reservoir in the Tryweryn valley. The water was to supply the needs of Liverpool, an English city, almost 70 miles away. The residents were not given a voice; in fact the entire project was passed through Parliament in London to avoid needing planning permission from any tedious locals. A classic story of the Big Man stomping on the Little Guy.

Sixty years on from that ruling, a bitter resentment towards the officialdom of English rule remained. It lay submerged, just inches beneath the surface of that reservoir. As a result, with the latest thoughtless assault on Welsh statehood, “Cofiwch Dryweryn!1” became the rallying cry for home-grown opposition.

Welsh print media became dominated by editorials tripping over themselves to prove their loyalty, their dislike of a distant, oppressive, Anglo-Saxon government, and above all, their Welsh-ness. Almost overnight, papers, conversations, football crowds, radio stations; all of them became Welsh. Even people’s names changed; Thomas pointing out that “It’s spelt ‘Tomos’”, Rebecca pretending she’d always been “Beca”.

Apparently, according to Eres, it was almost funny how bad the average person’s Welsh actually was. She once joked to me that the highest selling book that year was “How to learn Welsh almost instantly so that no one mistakes you for a saes2”. Neighbours would greet each other in the street with a cheerful “Shwmae!3”, none of them quite sure of the correct pronunciation, and none of them acknowledging the fact that they’d entirely spoken to one another in English for the past 20 years.

Welsh wasn’t just the language in Cenedl; it was an identity. The defensively fragile identity of a nation who knows they aren’t being completely truthful about their heritage.

I zoned out the radio’s Celtic echo-chamber, and took stock of our surroundings. Our boat was just passing round the headland. Whilst the following wind had made the first leg of our journey a breeze – if you’ll allow the pun – I wasn’t looking forwards to the narrow parts. My plan was to pull into Trecastle and not move on until I was one hundred percent sure of the best time to leave…

Welsh translations:

1. “Remember Tryweryn!”

2. “Saxon”, derogatory term for an English person.

3. An informal Welsh version of “Hello!”

My First Microfiction

This week I heard about microfiction. It’s basically super short fiction. So I thought I would have a go… I have 300 words, and the following prompt:

Jim wakes up in a hotel at gunpoint surrounded by his coworkers. He knows exactly what information they need from him, but he also knows a way to (hopefully) make them turn on the boss and get out. Can this master of deceit sway the crowd?


“Wow”, I say, winningly. Three growling bandits with guns. At 6am? Everyone involved clearly needs a coffee. “Err, can I get you anything?”. 
“Shut it Jim!”, a balaclava-ed attacker snarls. Obviously its Carl, because I recognise that nasal twang. Moron. “What’s the password?!”
“Dang it, I knew I’d forgotten something!”, I said, “Have you looked down the back of the sofa?”.
Carl hits me with the butt of his gun. It hurts. Lip slightly bleeding, I wince, and carry on, “Not even right between the cushions? Stuff can get really lodged in there…”
Before Punchy Carl can smack me again, another man grabs his arm. It’s Williams – he’s wearing a light green tie. The same one he wears in the office. Seriously. These guys need a lesson in subterfuge. Perhaps a whole course. Just tell us the password and we’ll let you go”, says Williams, attempting a friendly smile. Because an armed man with a friendly smile is so much better.
“Why do you even want it?”, I say, crossing my arms. A Bond villain. In pyjamas.
The third bandit pipes up. I say ‘bandit’, but obviously I mean ‘Angie’. Angie, the only woman that we work with who has red hair. Ridiculous. “All we need is 10 minutes access to the server, and we can divert those funds…”
“But our poor managers? Won’t you think of them? If that merger doesn’t go through, they’ll be bereft”. I tried to drip sarcasm, but it’s harder in pyjamas.
Still holding Carl, Williams responded, “The fewer of us that know the better. Let’s keep the Boss out of it”.
“Ah, dear Williams” – he started at that, when I used his name – “You’ve apparently never used the server. All transfers need an authorisation code from our blessed supervisor”.
All three look crestfallen.
“Look, here’s a bypass login”, I say, tapping on my laptop, “It’ll work from the Boss’s computer – just don’t forget my cut!”
They leave, practically skipping.
Humming, I complete a transfer. In their names. To my hidden account. Then I call the Boss. “Yes, some irregularities, best to call security – can’t be too careful… “

One Half

I am now halfway through 2019! Well, actually a bit more than that, but I was slow getting round to penning this post. Today I finally sat down – with a vegan cappuccino in Powered By Plants – and got some thoughts out. Chris Coffee Laptop

At the beginning of the year, I set myself some overly ambitious goals. Of course, its August now, and so, of course, *spoilers* I’ve failed to meet some of them. Maybe even most of them.

However, I’m choosing to feel pretty positive about the process as a whole – as I wrote in my “One Quarter” post, these are things I’d like to do, not stuff I have to…

Let’s take a look at how I’ve been doing…


My book, Headlock, is going swimmingly – I’m at 99,000 words! I’ve got into a real rhythm of writing, clocking out 2000 words nearly every week. Because life is always better with graphs, here’s a growth of my word count progress.

Possibly more importantly, I’ve got some people reading it too. Some of those people quite like it! I’m in the middle of setting up a proper facebook page for my author identity (Go on, visit it and “like” me), and there will need to be some kind of inevitable revitalisation of this site (so that the older posts function and search actually works…). Plus we have a front cover, and some useful contacts developing on the Welsh front.

In fact, writing has been so successful that its sort of pushed everything else to the side a bit. I’ve only got some much time, between work, looking after kids, church, community work, maintaining a relationship with the lovely Katherine, playing board games, running, cycling…

Life is more than just achieving goals. You have to live a bit in the gaps too.

So I’m busy, shocker. Fitting 2-3 hours a week of writing into a busy life means there isn’t as much spare time to write blog posts. Or file tax returns. Or play board games and cook pizza!

So I’m taking the month off. No writing in August! I’m actually a bit ahead of my target (the red line on the graph above), so I may catch up, but if not, oh well. Life is more than just achieving goals. You have to live a bit in the gaps too.


Commitment 2 for 2019 was 30 minutes of harmonica and 30 minutes of piano each week. I’ve given up on this one, slightly sadly. Haven’t really played the piano since March, and I’ve even considered selling the chromatic harmonica. Just not enough time in the day, and I’ve realised I’d rather improve on guitar than nail a slightly weird outlying instrument.

However, on Sunday, we had a massively stripped down worship team, because everyone was away. Which meant that me, Sophie and Louis were able to mess around a bit. There were instrument swaps between songs. We played some acoustic, some electric guitar, a bit of cahon (the weird sound box I’m sat on in the picture). And, in one of the songs, I cracked out the harmonica.

Now, it was just a C major diatonic, but it still involved working out how to play F, A major and D minor chords, some of which aren’t really present on that harmonica. Involved some memory, co-ordination, isolating a couple of specific holes, even – dare I say it – a little skill. And it went pretty well too!

It wasn’t until after our practice that I realised: I wouldn’t have had the ability to transcribe those chords without the groundwork laid earlier in 2019. So although it’s kind of a fail, there’s hints of success in there too. I’ll take that.


This has been the big change in the second quarter of 2019. Well, technically the Eureka moment was exactly at the 6 month mark. I got to June 30th, and looked at my current distance cycled: 1700km. My aim? 5000km for the year. Meaning that instead of halfway there…? I was barely at a third.

So I kicked into a higher gear. Once again, graphs make everything better – I think you can see that I’m definitely back on track! This week I’m already on target to ride nearly double my minimum weekly distance, and I’m hoping to get the whole 5000km thing wrapped up in early October.

Which is good. Because I have a marathon place for London 2020. And I need to start training. And I need to fit in 6 weeks downtime for a hernia operation somewhere too.

Cycling with my older kids has been a massive success too. My initial aim was 30 minutes with them a week, but then something wonderful happened: Neriah learnt to cycle independently, and both gained a love for bikes. They go out round the park regularly alone now, and we all cycled 18km to Wigan at the weekend! Just need to get Isaac on his bike now…


pile of booksThere’s no doubt to me that starting the day in reflection, quiet and prayer is good for me

Its been a steady slog through the Old Testament, but I’ve found a real peace, especially in working through the Psalms. There’s no doubt to me that starting the day in reflection, quiet and prayer is good for me. As a “doer”, its definitely healthier than just jumping out of bed and tearing into the day.

The next thing I need to do, aside from keep-on-carrying-on, is to start reading through my “to read” list. I have some amazing books about racism, community and faith to work through, including some corkers by Greg Jarrell, John M Perkins and Shane Claiborne. I’ve included a photo of the pile next to my bed in an attempt to shame myself into action.

That’s all folks!

Thanks for reading this little update. You can catch the start of the year here, and three months in here. How about you? What goals are you nailing in 2019…

One Quarter

Under pressure.

I set myself some ambitious challenges at the beginning of 2019. Writing, music, fitness, that sort of thing…

I’m never actually, you know, done.

I’ll admit, one downside to the targets I put down is the potential that I might feel constant pressure. A weight sitting on me. A constant nagging.

But, and its a big but… I already have that.

Things to do

On the right is a screenshot of my Google Tasks todo list. Note that there are loads and loads of things on that list… And then look on the left sidebar, and see there’s 9 other todo lists… The system I use in order to get things done gets every idea written in. Which means that I’m never actually, you know, done.

Things I’d like to do

My new year resolutions, however? Its a list of some things I’d like to do. All of them are amounts: nothing is ever “done”, they are just options.

Be nice to write 2000 words this week, but 1900? That’s still a cool achievement.

Be nice to do some Pilates this week, but none? Well, sometimes that happens!

A friendly hand

So, I’ve found it a reassuring pressure. Like a friendly hand on your shoulder. I need some pressure, or I’ll own a piano for a decade and never learn to play it (true story). But its a friendly hand, and I can say “Sorry dude, not today”, and the hand leaves me alone. I’m good with that.

Its giving me a nice rhythm too: a steady challenge of 200 words a day, 14km a day on the bike, oh look, there’s a harmonica that needs playing.

The First Three Months

So how has the first quarter of a year been? I’m not going to go into every detail, but just give a few highlights. Plus a graph, cos everyone loves graphs!

My book is coming on great, already about 7 more chapters written! My plan is to actually get my website together enough to support a potential Kickstarter. Have to see how that turns out, obviously, but I’ve found an artist to work on a cover for me. Check out some of his art on the right, or visit his portfolio!

In terms of word count on my book, as of today, I’m at 64,000 words. That’s just short of 30K more than on January 1st! See my progress on the exciting (read, “not very exciting”) graph on the right.

I estimate the final word count will need to be around 120,000 words, so at the current rate, I’ll be there in approximately September! Although there is a vast amount of editing that will need to happen at some point.

Music-wise, I’ve been really surprised too, just by how much I’m enjoying piano practice. Just going over and over on the parts from lesson 4 and 5 of PlayBluesPiano has been cathartic, and I’m hearing real improvements. I also know how to nail a diminished 7th now!

After many years of owning harmonicas, it took literally half an hour of practice to learn how to lip purse/tongue block and play single notes. There’s a quaint pleasure in becoming comfortable with a weird little niche instrument! I hope to nail octaves and a few arpeggiated scales over the next few months.

My favourite achievements include Joen getting more confident at cycling, our other son beginning to use his balance bike, and my daughter playing chords on her Loog!

Bible time is going pretty well too, a little up and down, but most mornings I’m getting up early, grabbing a coffee and spending a few minutes of peace before another crazy day begins.

Finally, cycling is cool. I’m definitely missing running a little, but a few decent distances on the bike feel like a real achievement. Its been a good opportunity for bonding with my son on the kiddie seat, and my friend Rob, at least when he’s not far, far behind. (joke).

So all-in-all, pretty happy, although its notable that writing is the only area where I’m actually on target, everything else I’m way, way behind. But happily, there’s no real pressure! C’est la vie.

Episode Two: Hasty Embarcation

Enter Corral was an extremely short lived attempt at a podcast I made in 2016. I enjoyed the fun of putting it together, but lacked the organisation to do it more than… twice.

Enjoyed this? Try the first episode, and a short story based on the first episode

Welcome to the second (and final) episode of Enter Corral!

Join Mac, Drake, Virt and Roberta as they deal with the authorities chasing them for a crime they didn’t commit.

Although they have killed some people now, and they are trying to get onto a monorail without paying, and their papier-mâché skills are frankly criminal…

At one point, they talk about a map for the monorail station – you could view it in all its glory below… but I lost it. There’s a gate, a ticket office, a diner, a train, that’s about it, I’m sure you’ll be fine!

Episode One: Prisoners of Corral

Enter Corral was an extremely short lived attempt at a podcast I made in 2016. I enjoyed the fun of putting it together, but lacked the organisation to do it more than… twice.

Enjoyed this? Try the second episode, and a short story based on this episode

Welcome to the first ever episode of Enter Corral.

Introducing Mac, Drake, Virt and Roberta as they deal with the challenges of being social pariahs, and entirely at the railroading whim of the GM.

Attached below is a rough representation of the prison cell, if you feel that your imagination can’t paint the picture for you…

Like, it’s a room, with bars on the window. There’s no way out. Pretty standard prison cell stuff.

Chapter One: Prisoners of Corral

Enter Corral was an extremely short lived attempt at a podcast I made in 2016. I enjoyed the fun of putting it together, but lacked the organisation to do it more than… twice.

Enjoyed this? Try the recordings of the first episode, and the second episode

I always love a bit of creative writing, so several years ago, I turned an episode of our short-lived RPG podcast into prose…

Mac opened one eye, gingerly. Beyond his blurry, grisled cheek, an expanse of grimy flagstone presented itself.  He considered cracking open his other eyelid, but the familiar shards of hangover slicing into his skull persuaded him against it. With a moan, he pulled himself into a sitting position, and surveyed his current situation.

This was clearly a cell. Mac groaned inwardly. It reminded him of many similar cells, each one a night spent at the pleasure of the Watch.

He threw a canny gaze over the other inhabitants. Opposite him, languishing against the wall, stood a incongruously well dressed young man, with a mischievous glint to his eye.

“So. What did you do?”, said Virt.

A regular sight at various levels of social fluffery, Virt “Tempts-the-Virtuous” was also depressingly well aquainted with the hospitality of the Watch. Sadly, par for the course for any self respecting conman, and Virt was undoubtedly one of those.

“A lot of drinking. My head is killing”, said a voice at floor level.

The two inmates turned their attention to the speaker, another of the five inhabitants of the room. A tall man, with a number of cuts and bruises visible on his face, Drake had no personal experience of imprisonment, but years in the military meant he knew a cell when he saw one.

He glared at Mac. “Its fuzzy, but I know you. Don’t really remember much, but I do remember you starting—”

“Yeh want some more? Anytime, boy”, snarled Mac.

“Sorry, let me just get this straight”, interjected Virt. “You two were arrested for fighting each other, and someone decided to put you in the same cell?!”

Drake nodded slowly, “Yep, I was thinking that, actually”.

Virt slow-clapped and laughed. “Top notch policing from Corral’s finest, as usual.”

“This is out of order”, stated Drake, indignantly, glaring at Mac whilst nursing a significant sized bruise above one eye.

Grinning at the animosity, Virt turned his charm toward the angry looking young lady sat across the room.”Well, not the first time I’ve woken up in a cell, but not often I get such fine company! Hello, young lady!”

Sat on the bare wooden bench, in battered fatigues, Roberta Skyhunter stared past Virt at the window. Her short black hair escaped a faded medic company cap, stopping above her distant blue eyes. She looked Virt up and down.

“Hey.” she said, in a guarded manner.

On the bench next to her, a pale thin man stared blankly at the door. Nondescript, and shabbily dressed, with a large gash on his forehead, Bernard had the air of someone slightly concussed.

The five of them quickly ascertained their total lack of any helpful pick pocketing tools, keys or handy bribes. Mac rose unsteadily to his feet, and started examining the windows. Around the size of his head, with two rows of thick concrete embedded bars, it didn’t appear to be a promising point of exit. He pulled defeatedly at one, just in case.

“Don’t think you’ll be getting through there”, jibed Virt, with a smile.

“You might be…” said Mac threateningly.

Virt took in Mac’s bulking shoulders and missing teeth, and decided that his personal brand of humour was not going to serve him very well. He decided to call on the less aggressive side of the cell.

“So we know how our two bar brawlers ended up at the Watch’s disposure. Why are the rest of us here?”

“I was just picked up, as I was walking past the Ministry”, said Roberta, “No one said why”.

“I’ve got no idea why we’re here”, said Bernard, distractedly.

Virt nodded, “I mean, I had quite a successful night and – for a change – what I was doing was fairly legal, so I’m not quite sure what happened”.

“Is the door locked?” said Mac, without optimism. Drake tried the handle, unsuccessfully, and fell back to silence.

Visibly frustrated, Mac paced over and hammered on the door. There was no response. He tried again, and after a lengthy delay, footsteps were heard coming down the corridor. Mac turned expectantly towards the small communication slot set high in the metal door.

The hidden walker stomped to a stop, and the slot slammed shut. As the bolt ground to a stop and the footsteps faded away into the distance, the cellmates settled down to an inevitable wait – “As usual”, remarked Mac.

Drake squinted at Virt, “Why are you dressed like that?”

“Thinks he’s King Shit”, sneered Mac from the corner.

Virt surveyed himself. For a drinks reception at the Ministry of the Interior, a full suit with tails seemed appropriate. Sharing a grimy cell with 4 commoners, at least one of whom kept giving him murderous glances, he was feeling decidedly overdressed. Putting his nerves aside, he strode to the door, and made a few sharp knocks.

After calling “Guard?!” a few times, the slot slammed open.

“What?”, the gruff voice of a mercenary.

“I wondered if you could tell us what we are supposed to have done? Because I have literally no idea.”

“You’ve got no idea?”

“I genuinely have no idea. I was having a nice drink with the Deputy Minister for the Interior—”

“So you were having drinks with the Deputy?”


“At the Ministry building?”


“And then half an hour later, after you had been seen leaving the building…”


“The Minister for the Interior was murdered.”


“By four men, and a woman—”

Virt burst out with indignation, “Hang on a second, you’ve literally just said I was seen leaving the building, I’d left, I’d gone. How could I have done it?”

Mac interjected with a rawkish grin, “To be fair guard, he just confessed to all of us that he killed ‘im”.

Drake frowned at Mac, “So he’s meant to have gone back half an hour later, back into the building? What about us, why are we here? I wasn’t even in the Ministry—”

“Look mate, you’ve got the wrong guys. You know he did it”, said Mac, thrusting a grubby finger towards Virt, “Set the rest of us free, and we’ll help you round up the others in his gang…”

The guard’s steel toed boot hit the outside of the door with a crash. “SHUT IT! Look, I know your game, trying to talk me in circles, it ain’t gonna work. We were told to find four men, and a woman, near the Ministry. We looked in the area, found the five of you. Problem solved.”

“That was it?”, objected Virt. “All you had to work on was ‘four men and a woman’?”

“Nope, there were descriptions; man in a suit, an old bloke, a tall, paramil type, a girl dressed as a medic, and a skinny bloke.”


“And you were all found, at 2 in the morning, outside the Ministry. I’m done with this; you are here whilst we wait for the Tigers”.

“The Tigers?” exclaimed Virt. Torsen’s Tigers were the biggest paramilitary guild in the system. Whilst simple policing was left to the unaligned mercs in the suburbs, the Tigers had money, organisation and prestige. Even Mac looked a bit concerned at this news.

“Yeh, they are taking you to the city jail, they’ll do all the paperwork there. Nothing more to say, all this is above my pay grade. Keep it down!”

As the slot hammered shut again, Virt cried out “I demand to speak to a lawyer”. A muffled guffaw echoed down the corridor, as the footsteps faded away.

Silence reigned for a few minutes, as each person glumly reflected on their likely future. Stories of brutality and missing people were not unusual when Torsen’s Tigers came up in conversation.

Mac broke the stillness gruffly, “So, you were talking to this Minister?”, he asked Virt.

“No, I only spoke to the Deputy Minister. Nice bloke actually. We were making a, shall we say, ‘business transaction’—”

“About the mines?”, Mac’s eyes flared as he said this.

“Nah, it was about the monorail”.

“Are you in monorail construction?” piped in Drake.

Everyone turned towards Drake. Virt gestured to his finely pressed suit, admittedly somewhat less exquisite after a night on the floor. “Do I look like I work in monorail construction?”

Drake flared, “I don’t know, I’ve never met anyone who works in monorail construction!”

Roberta stared at him, with one raised eyebrow. After a suitably withering pause, she said “So what does the Minister actually do?”

The exact role of government on Corral was unclear to most residents, and fully opaque to the rest. A farm based economy, with little in the way of metropolitan areas, most newsworthy events generally revolved around the huge carnivorous prairie lizards that roamed the grasslands.

Historically unimpressive, the beleaguered Corral mines had undergone huge growth in recent years. Whilst the exact source of the new found mining wealth remained a closely guarded industrial secret, the economic impacts to the system had been unmistakeable.

The construction of the continent spanning monorail was the most visible effect of this financial development, but anyone living in Guinea was well aware of the hugely increased numbers of offworlders in the capital. Whilst the majority of visitors seemed to be mining contractors, there was a significant volume of professional and security guilds, and the general hodge-podge of opportunistic planet jumpers common to any thriving spaceport.

All this change came under the scrutiny of the Ministry of the Interior. Ultimately, key decisions were likely overseen by Lord Sway, the planetary ruler, but the Minister would act with autonomy in all matters of development, guild authorisation, and employment. His death would leave a power vacuum that would disrupt the upper echelons of Corral’s change-averse society.

“He built the monorail, didn’t he?”, said Drake.

“I could tell you all about the monorail…”, hinted Mac, with a dark expression.

Drake took in the ominous pause, “I take it the monorail isn’t exactly to your liking?”

“Nah. We don’t need it. Nothing wrong with the farms, nothing wrong with the ranches: we don’t need it.”

“You’re not a fan of all this new fangled technology, then?”

“Oh, technology is okay, but the monorail’s a waste of money. What do we need it for? It’s just Lord Sway’s penis extension”

Virt interjected, “Ooh, let me guess… you’re a rancher, right?”

Mac grunted, a slight nod of pride subdued by his obvious dislike for the fancy dressed conman.

Virt considered speaking his mind about his general experiences of solid-skulled ranchers, and decided silence was the wiser choice. He rapped on the cell door again, “Do you know who I am?!”, he shouted, imperiously. The two inch thick steel door did not appear particularly impressed by this statement.

The five of them settled back into a tense, reticent quiet. Escape was clearly impractical, and reasoning with the guard was more likely to lead to a beating than freedom.

Bernard stirred, an agitated look to his brow. He began pacing back and forth in the grubby confines of the cell, muttering to himself, “Something to remember, something to remember”.

The others watched him uneasily. Weedy or not, no one wanted a crazy person in their cell.

Outside the barred window, the city clocks began to chime the hour, tolling their way to 9AM. Bernard looked up, thunderstruck, letting out a high pitched repeat of his mantry “Something to remember!”, and ran to peer through the bars.

His body tumbled back, ragdoll, as the wall exploded inwards.

Rubble and dust filled the air, and the other four cellmates scrambled back, frantically trying to move out of the path of the debris. Through the smoke, a battered armoured van hazed into existence, its bonnet dented and scratched from the trauma of crashing through a foot of solid concrete.

A klaxon started wailing from deeper within the building. The door to the cell, structurally unaffected by the chaos on the other side of the room, slammed open as the guard rushed in. Obviously alerted by the noise and general commotion, he managed only two steps before the distinctive noise of a tazer discharge crackled out, and he fell to the floor, his unconscious body jerking rhythmically.

“BERNARD? Is there a Bernard here?!”, a voice called out, from the general direction of the van.

Still blinking away the dust from their eyes, and shellshocked by the sudden turn of events, the cellmates looked at the indistinct form of Bernard, mostly hidden under several tons of debris.

Impatient with the lack of response, the voice repeated, “Seriously, is there a Bernard here? Syndicate have ordered a rescue – I’m to collect Bernard, and those in his party”.

“I’m Bernard!” said Virt, mind racing at the implications of the mysterious man realising his charge had been killed.

“Okay, great. Thought I might have got the wrong cell for a moment there!”, said the stranger. He whipped open the rear doors of the van, “What are you waiting for, get in! We need to go!  The Tigers are going to be on their way.”

Virt strode over to the front of the vehicle, jumping into the passenger seat, pausing only to kick the recumbent guard on his way past. Roberta followed, clambering over the wreckage into the back door.

“I ain’t going nowhere without Lucille”, grunted Mac. He and Drake sprinted into the corridor, where they found a guard station with its handily unlocked evidence locker. Pocketing various wallets and identity bundles, they returned, Mac cradling a large, battered shotgun with an almost maternal relief, and both scrambled in to the van.

The stranger kicked the armoured truck into reverse. With enough revs, and fair amounts of jolting and rocking, it extricated itself from the remains of the once impregnable cell, then, back wheels squealling, the gang accelerated off into the night.