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Diary Of A Portsmouth Freedom Fighter

Day One

And there it is. The notification. That cold-blooded figurehead that quietly slithered into the top spot in the country got her way. She wants what a lot of people want; she wants to keep them out and throw some of them already in out too. And she wants to monitor everything. She’s clearly unhinged, totally unsuitable to represent the huge variety of people. A lot of people – stupid people, naturally, because this is my narrative – want what she wants as well, but not the majority, and definitely not the “very clear” majority she insisted and insisted made her Ice Empress of the Free World. Do you want to leave the European Union? That was the question. I don’t remember it asking if we wanted to be led into darkness by an entity crafted from vengeance but there’s always small print somewhere in those documents. In a pie chart you could barely make out the difference that very clear majority of people who could be bothered to vote selected and we’re not supposed to include the non-voters so there you have it. The country barely wanted to be free of beneficial meddling and now we’re getting free. And the people in my city apparently wanted to be free of beneficial meddling too and so I’ve decided I’m going to help them. I love this city and I hate its people.

Do you know Portsmouth? It’s a city on an island. Three road routes on and a few foot-bridges plus a rail line. After that the only way on or off is by water. There’s a naval dock and a commercial port but the water’s shallow so the size of vessels is limited. We’ve got some ferry services to the Isle of Wight off the south coast and to Gosport to our west. What I’m trying to say here is that to isolate my city, to free it from any of that horribly useful interference from outside influences, you don’t really need to do much at all.

I commute to and from work by car and it takes me on and off the island every single working day. I’ve seen what happens when there’s an accident on one of those three road routes, mostly because it’s almost a daily occurrence. Hell, everyone in Portsmouth has seen what happens. Stationary chaos. Thousands of metal, motorised marvels idling away with increasingly stressed humans idling away inside them. The vehicles start diverting from their preferred route and quickly overload the second route and then the third. Everything slows, even more than normal. Those traffic maps start filling with deepening red. They’re like veins that never quite burst under the pressure.

I’m middle-aged and white, never been in any trouble with the law. I’m Mr Unremarkable. But I know the city well and I know some people in it. I know people in the police service and the fire service and I know people in the building industry and I know people who know other people who can get things done for cash without horrible questions or even needing to meet. That’s how I picked up that transit van last night and how I put the oxyacetylene and domestic gas cannisters in the back, how I drove it and ditched it under the M27 flyover at Hilsea in the early hours. Hazard lights on because I’m just some poor schmuck who’s broken down. Four tyres slashed with a Stanley knife. Maybe that’s why I broke down or maybe some little shits from the area did it afterwards for entertainment. The important thing is the note stuck on the windscreen that explains there’s a bomb which will go off at midday or if the vehicle is moved. The important thing is you can see into the vehicle and you can see wires leading off apparently from the dashboard and doors into the back, and you can see those metal cylinders in the darkness just like they’d been staged that way for effect. The important thing is where my note says Portsmouth is taking control of its borders and it won’t let any foreigners in. Brexit means Brexit is at the end.

The Ice Empress will like that because it’s her phrase. Her supporters in Portsmouth will like that, won’t they? Sure, their Tuesday morning is going to be hell, businesses will lose money, people who only get paid when they work are going to suffer, there’s going to be a rise in generally feeling angry and frustrated. But you’ve got to give the people what they want, especially when what they want is bad for them. They don’t listen to reason because they’re unreasonable people. They need demonstrations if they’re going to learn anything. Learn what it means to be truly free of help from those looking out for you. You can’t work with these people and you can’t convince them they’re wrong on social media. It has to be something bigger than that, something physical, something personal.

So, a nice walk along the Hilsea Lines to the Eastern Road. It’s been a cold few months and it’s decidedly bitter this early in the morning. What am I doing out at this unearthly time with a backpack on? That’s got my camera because I’m out to catch the dawn, officer. Practiced that, not that I think I’ll need it; it helps being a native and knowing where all the cameras are so I should be clear of most of it. And it’s got some other things as well; a camping stove, lighter, spare socks and gloves, some chocolate, a cup, some soup. Nothing out of the ordinary for someone who knows it’s going to be cold and wants something warm while they’re sitting around waiting for a picture. I did have a box of screws and nails from the back of the van but they’ve been discarded over the road near Farlington now. They might not do much, if anything, but it can’t hurt. My main goal is the bottom of the road as it heads towards Fratton Park, after the two lanes have merged to one, then start to split again for the juction. Right there is where people park their cars and, my target, vans they use for work. I bloody hate van drivers in Portsmouth. A good thing I’m nowhere near alone in that respect so you can’t profile me that way. I’ve hugged the shoreline away from the road all the way down just to avoid anyone. No need for photos as the sun starts to emerge beyond the horizon; the camera date was shifted forward yesterday, the pictures were taken, the date was changed back; to a casual examiner I must have been doing exactly what I said I was. It’s still gloomy enough and devoid of traffic that I can make my way to the nearest of the vans, stuff one set of the spare socks and gloves into the grilles of a couple of vehicles, light them, then head off down towards Eastney along the side roads. I’ve left a few leaflets dotted around and slipped under the wipers of some cars proclaiming Brexit means Brexit and it’s time for the people of Portsmouth to take back control of the roads from van drivers. Something in there about not letting the government dictate who can or cannot take up parking spaces for hard-working, Portsmouth car owners. If the people who comment on the local newspaper’s website are anything to go by they’ll like that. Morons.

Right about now there are messages turning up to the police explaining the van under the bridge in case it’s not been discovered already and there’s another message directed at the dockyard warning that a vehicle with a bomb on board will be coming in with the morning rush. Those messages came from a webserver in Amsterdam with WordPress on it and a modified plugin that will very shortly be updated automatically to a new version without those changes I introduced. Sure, they’ll trace the message origins to that server and domain but it was set up for a friend years ago as a favour and it’s barely been touched, probably no longer paid for, yet still accessible since the small-time host didn’t really care; the tweak to the plugin originated from a server in the U.S. a few months back, some time after the referendum; the tweak allowed for some arbitrary partial messages to be received and stored encrypted in a file over the course of weeks – 15 characters here, 20 characters there – until the scheduled send point, after which the file was replaced with garbage then deleted. Server logs will show the message left there but evidence of the sending mechanism should require snapshots of the server from prior to delivery and that host, well, probably doesn’t do that. Probably. It’s a small risk and I can deny it simply enough; I’ve lost touch with that friend, she lives a couple of counties over these days, and she probably doesn’t remember much about the site anyway. That U.S. server only ever was accessed through TOR and always away from home. I don’t have all the tools of a hacker but I’ve got enough knowledge, I think, I hope, to avoid too much scrutiny. I’m relying on using a non-standard technique to get away with it. Exciting, isn’t it!

So there you have it for day one. The Hilsea route should be off limits as a potential bomb with gas canisters that nobody’s going to want to get near or attempt a controlled explosion on is sitting under the motorway bridge. That should ensure the motorway gets closed too. Maybe some punctures at the top of Eastern Road but definite chaos at the bottom of it with the fires that should be taking hold. Quite likely closing of the dockyard entrance and stepping up of security around Whale Island if things go right should render the western entry point onto Portsea Island blocked even more than it would be. It’s good I’ve got a few days booked off because I don’t think anyone’s moving in Portsmouth today.

Day Two

There wasn’t really a bomb, of course. I’m not a maniac; just a guy wearing a hat of mania in case someone’s looking from above. Besides, I wouldn’t have the first clue how to make a bomb and I wouldn’t search for that shit online even if routed all over the place. I don’t want to hurt anyone. Well, I do a bit if they voted for Brexit, but I wouldn’t want to kill anyone. It’s like the ghost of Christmas present in Scrooged; you’ve got to hurt people sometimes to get their attention. I know, I know, maybe there’s an argument that the mindless mass that voted the UK out of Europe were doing the same thing to the government but I don’t buy that argument. On account of them being mindless and me being so damned smart. Careful there, I don’t want to start believing everything my ego says now, do I?

The fires completely burnt out two vans and damaged a number of nearby cars – casualties of freedom – and it took the fire engines quite some time to reach them. Can’t imagine why. I seem to recall the council telling us people would be as safe as ever when they moved emergency resources away from central Portsmouth. Another thing to stir up the easily-stirred mob. Portsmouth was at a standstill for over twelve hours. People abandoned their cars and walked so today they’ve got to pick them up and the chaos continues. Of course it made both regional and national news. No major mention of the pro-isolationist wording which is a disappointment but not a complete surprise in the modern world of dead journalism and government control. Some murmurs on social media heralded by some, dismissed by others; people listening to facts and coming to the conclusion they were right all along before they heard any of them, as always. And, gloriously, another couple of work vehicles set ablaze overnight just a few roads away from the scene of my demonstration of arson. Nothing to do with me this time. Fellow freedom fighters or people seeking insurance payouts now before restrictions are put in place and everyone’s premiums become unaffordable?

That power to affect people’s lives so dramatically is a real headrush. I wonder if those who won the referendum felt some of this when the results were announced. I wonder if the ones who kept telling objectors to shut and just accept it like they never would have got a little buzz of feeling superior for being on the dominant side. The Ice Empress almost certainly does. She’s got those piercing eyes, that slightly downward-looking stare that just screams you’re beneath her and she can do whatever she wants. I feel it as an inner smirk as I look at people complaining or threatening the council and the government for years of cutbacks or at people advocating more stringent snooping to stop people plotting things like this again (like they need an excuse). You can’t snoop on the person who talks to nobody about what they’re about to do; you can’t spot the person who doesn’t fit the profile of what you want to label someone who’d do that as. I’m invisible. I’m the greatest. I’m going to have to practice looking nondescript in the mirror to make sure nobody spots the difference in me. I’ve got decades of disguise to keep wearing.

Yeah, yesterday was a good day. Let the free people of Portsmouth discuss what happened, point fingers of blame, and sort out what needs doing for themselves. Of course, if they should seek assistance from outside – against what they wanted – then I’ll have to consider fighting for their freedom again in a bigger, bolder way. I know I want them to because I want the excuse to act again. I see what’s happening to me but I’m in control, always have been, never needed to take it back. Just like everyone.

Author: Mark

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