In a stifled and oppressed United Kingdom, nothing can be achieved without the approval of the dictatorial Sponsors, at whose head is the malevolent and cruel Lord William St Benedict. In Britain s cities the Sponsored live narrow, if privileged, lives, while the Unsponsored are confined to menial roles and to less desirable districts. Among the Sponsors many victims is Lord William s own son, the forthright and charismatic Theodore Dory held captive by his father since he was a boy. In the unassuming town of Applethwaite, in the shadow of the Cumbrian fells, an unlikely revolution is brewing. Albino gymnast Louis Trevelyan and his motley group of friends are fiercely proud of their Unsponsored status and gradually forge a plan not only to liberate the beleaguered Theodore but the whole of the United Kingdom. Dory s Avengers are coming!
‘Now,’ said Lord William, addressing everyone in the room once more and making Mortimer O’Reilly flinch again, ‘I’m sorry that this meeting seems to be all about Lysander here, but there’s one more thing I’d like him to explain. Lysander, what in the name of heaven were you doing…here?’
Switching on his monitor screen, Lord William started to play the film that had been standing by on his computer. To Lysander’s horror, the Applethwaite Unsponsored versus Eden Valley football match he’d attended the previous Saturday filled the screen.
‘Here we have some underclass attempting to play football. This,’ Lord William went on, tracking one of Cameron’s runs on the screen with his pen, ‘I understand to be Elliot Farrell’s son. I suppose that would make him your cousin, Theodore.’
Theo leant forward in his favourite armchair and watched the football match with interest.
‘Some of these players, my man in Applethwaite informs me, are pretty useful. Farrell junior falls into that category. However, they have all spurned the benefits of Sponsorship and are paying the price. Sponsorship equals a fine career, possibly playing in the Premier League. No Sponsorship equals cold Saturday afternoons playing on a field in Cumbria. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you yet another example of the way Sponsorship enhances lives!’
Lord William’s lapdogs all applauded right on cue, with the exception, Theo was pleased to notice, of Lysander.
‘This is not actually why I wanted to show you this film, however. Lysander, would you be so kind as to explain what you were doing?’
The camera panned round from the match to the spectators; particularly to Lysander. Jenny on his shoulders, he was jumping up and down; shouting, cheering, singing, leaving no doubt that he was very much involved in supporting the Unsponsored players.
‘As you can see, Lysander isn’t the only person we wouldn’t expect to see fraternising with the Unsponsored.’ Tapping the screen with his pen once more, Lord William pointed to Max Barrington. ‘I’ve long suspected that this young man has been relaxing his loyalty to the Scheme, and for some time I have had undercover men and women keeping an eye on Applethwaite and Barrington. Barrington has made his choice; his Sponsorship has been suspended permanently, and he can rot with the rest of the underclass.’
Watching Max roaring with laughter along with a couple of young women, Theo decided that rotting with the underclass seemed rather a pleasant option.
‘Ah, look, Lysander. Loopy Lou-ee,’ Lord William continued, regarding Lysander with the same air of detached amusement that he usually reserved for Theo. To Theo’s delight, Louis had indeed wandered into view, arm tightly wrapped round the shoulders of a young woman. The young woman in question was so clearly a Farrell that, even if Theo hadn’t been aware of his friend’s affections, he would have known at once she was Cousin Abi. Passing cups of some hot drink to Max and his companions, Louis and Abi looked as happy and relaxed as everyone around them.
‘Louis looks a little more with it than last time I saw him, doesn’t he, Lysander?’ murmured Lord William, watching Louis swapping quick-fire banter with Max.
‘Lord William…’ began Mortimer O’Reilly desperately, but as usual Lord William cut him short.
‘I haven’t forgotten, Mortimer. I never forget your prediction for a moment. However, we’re reaching the bit of this film I find the most interesting.’
The Sponsor spy at the football match had focused the camera on Lysander. His and Jenny’s faces loomed large on the screen, Jenny laughing in delight on her father’s shoulders as they both sang their support. No one in the room needed to be an expert in lip-reading to know what Lysander was saying.
‘Applethwaite Unsponsored!’ he chanted along with the underclass around him. ‘Applethwaite Unsponsored!’
Pausing the film with Lysander’s face still filling the screen, Lord William sat back in his chair and stared at the man himself. Even Theo thought it would be best not to offer his usual witticism, so the only sound in the room once again was the ticking of the clock.
‘So, Lysander,’ said Lord William eventually, ‘would you please tell us all why one of the highest-ranking Sponsors in the land spent his Saturday afternoon very visibly and very vocally supporting a team of underclass? What sort of message do you think this sends out to the Sponsored? Whatever did you think you were doing?’
Lysander raised his head to meet Lord William’s gaze. Knowing that there was no way he could lie his way out of this tight spot, he got a taste of Theo’s world.
‘I was having fun, Your Lordship.’
For as long as I can remember it has been my dream to become a published author, and finally this dream is coming true. My début novel, DORY’S AVENGERS, is due for publication by Book Guild Publishing of Brighton on Thursday 29th August 2013.