United Kingdom, North Wales, Undisclosed Location

The door of the sterile room opened. The woman twisted her wrists, attempting to relieve the pinch of the cable ties holding them to a metal loop embedded into the tabletop. She looked up, meeting the expectant stares of the sharply dressed men as they took the chairs in front of her, one at a time.

Her eyes narrowed. “Do you scumbags know who I work for? You’re going to be in a world of hurt when my bosses find out you’ve taken me!” She worked her wrists one more time for good measure.

And got nowhere.

The man to her left gave a brief, brittle smile. “Don’t worry, Dr. Llewellyn. You are only scheduled for a short visit. It is your position at TQB Enterprises that drew our attention to you.”

The second man took a sheaf of papers from his briefcase and passed it to the first, who shuffled them, looking for something. “Ah, there we are. Doctor Laura Llewellyn. Early graduation from university, straight into a research position. Stayed there until your radical thesis on isostatic pressing interested TQB enough that they bought you a castle.” He looked up at her. “Is all of that correct?”

She pulled against the ties on her wrists again, to no avail. “Do you know my underwear size as well? Creepy little man—that’s what you are. Let. Me. Go! I’ll report you to the authorities, I will! You won’t get away with this!”

“We are the authorities, Doctor Llewellyn.” The man smiled blandly. He reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and pulled out his wallet to show her his identification. There was an MI5 watermark in the background.

He leaned forward just a touch. “You see, we are working on behalf of Her Majesty’s government. You are in the position to assist us in a matter of vital national importance. This will all go away in an instant if you get us the specs for TQB’s armor and guns.”

The man—Agent Broadbent—put his wallet away and straightened up. “What will it be, Doctor? Will you do the right thing?”

“That’s not the right thing, and no, I won’t do it. TQB has been good to this nation—especially here in North Wales—and I won’t betray them!” Her eyes narrowed in defiance and her mouth pursed in an angry grimace. “You can go to Hell, the lot of you!”

Broadbent tutted and shook his head. His face was sad as he took a smartphone out of his immaculate suit jacket. He sent a message, then pulled up a video with a couple of swipes and held it out for her to see. She gasped when she saw her husband and two children being shoved roughly into a scruffy Ford Transit van by more suited agents.

“Doctor Llewellyn, you have put me in a difficult position. I was hoping we could avoid such nastiness, but your lack of cooperation has given me no choice.” He put the phone away. “Look, I don’t want to have to do this. Using innocent citizens as leverage is beyond the pale, but my bosses want those specs. These are frightening times, Laura. May I call you Laura? You must know what is happening in the wider world. War is everywhere, and it will reach our shores soon enough. We need those weapons.” He leaned in, placing a hand atop hers. “England needs you.”

Laura pulled her hand away quickly, ignoring the bite of the ties when she jerked them tight. “I don’t give a damn about what England needs. England sure as hell doesn’t give a crap about Wales! What have you done to my family? Where have you taken them?” She strained against her restraints, spitting mad.

Broadbent sat rigidly in his chair, his face stony. “Histrionics will get you nowhere, Doctor Llewellyn. Why not just do as I ask? Then your family goes free and we forget about all this unpleasantness.” He waved at her. “The nation will be indebted to you for your service. Doesn’t that sound nice?”

She shook her head resolutely. “No, it doesn’t. It sounds like the biggest pile of horse crap I’ve ever heard.” She sighed heavily. “Even if I wanted to help you, I can't do it. It's not my department!” she finished, her voice just a touch less strident.

“Dr. Llewellyn, if you do not comply, I assure you that the consequences for your family will not be pleasant. See?” Broadbent took out his phone and displayed the video stream again. Laura repressed a sob at the sight of her children crying in their father’s arms. They were huddled together in the back of the dirty van, shell-shocked and afraid. “Just do as we ask. Then they go free.”

Laura’s head dropped in defeat. “If I get caught I’m sending them straight to you! My family…” she asked, jerking her chin at the phone. “Where are you taking them? You’d better not hurt them!”

The other man spoke. “They are safe—for now. But you understand what’s at stake here, Doctor Llewellyn: if you do not do as we ask, I will be delivering much sadder news. Her Majesty must have those specifications.”