Unknown aliens have attacked the Earth by triggering an environmental catastrophe. Earth’s only saviour is the mysterious Professor Ethan Wanstead, a man who knows more than he is letting on, but his mission is compromised after meeting Will. Can Ethan control his own desires and keep Will safe even as the alien invaders are landing in the smoking ruins of London?
Devastation had hit the sleeping district of South London. Bodies littered the street, broken and bleeding, human and animal alike. Even the rats had been unable to avoid the catastrophe that had enveloped the planet.
Buildings lay in ruins, some still identifiable as houses from the remains of the walls and the gaping holes that had been windows and doorways, but most were just piles of rubble, brick and slate mashed together by the fury of the cataclysm.
The silence was complete. No animals bleated in fear, no children cried, no parents sought to reassure. A shroud had fallen on the area. The sound of a bolt being drawn back echoed like a cannon shot in the utter stillness. There was a scraping noise, a muffled discussion followed by some deep thumps and, finally, a door partially opened against the rubble piled up in front of it.
The door belonged to what was left of The Fox and Grapes pub, the largest building on the street—and the most solid—though even this had been shattered, leaving only the ground floor and the cellar buried under the remains of its neighbours. It was the deep cellars of the pub that had saved the residents and staff from the annihilation. That and a warning.
“What do you see?” demanded a peevish female voice. “Why is no one helping us to free the door from the outside?”
“I don’t know,” said a deeper male voice in annoyance. “I can’t see out yet. Give the blasted door another push, William, and then we’ll see.”
There was another scraping noise as the door moved enough to allow two men, father and son, to peer nervously out into the world. Both gasped in horror.
“What? What is it?” demanded the female voice. “I demand to be told what is going on!”
“It’s all gone,” whispered William, his voice hoarse.
“Gone, what do you mean, gone?”
“He means gone,” snapped Mr Lombard, William’s father. “The whole bloody world is gone! It’s been destroyed!”
William and his father moved out of the dark doorway and into the shattered world around them. They could scarcely believe what they were seeing. High Street, normally so busy and crowded, had been reduced to rubble and sludge. The early-morning rays of the sun fell on broken masonry, collapsed buildings and a tidal wave of drying mud.
The other survivors followed out of the cellar. Some had been staying as overnight guests, some were the regular drinkers fortunate enough to have still been in the building when the devastation started, while the rest were the staff.
“It’s a judgement,” wailed the peevish woman. “God has struck down this wicked world and the sinners!”
“In that case, why are we still here?” asked another guest, a military man in his forties. His silver mutton chops quivered in the morning air.
“It’s a judgement!”
“I have led a good life in the service of my country,” replied the man complacently, “so I don’t think I would be left down here if the rapture had arrived. This is something else. You heard the wind last night; it was like a dozen tornados rolled into one! Would God use such an earthly manner to wipe out his creation?”
“We are all sinners,” sniffed the woman, looking upset at having her imminent salvation denied.
“Speak for yourself, madam,” sneered another man with a bushy black beard.
“I would expect godless scientists like you to mock the Lord,” snapped the woman.
“Please, Mrs Prendergast, Professor Sherman, this bickering will achieve nothing,” said another of the scientists, a thin, elderly man with a dignified demeanour.
“Miss!” snapped the woman in moral outrage. “What then, Professor Burford, do you propose we should do in this ruin of a world?”
“Firstly, we should ascertain the extent of the damage and gather any survivors together. We will then be in a better place to decide what to do,” said Burford briskly. “We must have all the known facts before we can decide on our course of action.”
“There is one fact that nobody is prepared to mention, but I will,” snarled Sherman with a dark look on his face as he swung round to glare in open antipathy at the youngest member of the scientific group. “What did Professor Wanstead know of this? He was the one who ordered us all into the cellar. He knew this was going to happen. But how?”