|By 2015, Brussels, fulfilling its role as the Capital of Europe, has become a fully computerised city. The Transport Authority monitors a network of centrally controlled traffic lights, train-switching yards, underground metro systems and parking lots. On board cars, traffic information systems redirect commuters away from traffic jams and road works. Park and Ride terminals reduce the amount of car traffic inside the city by allowing commuters to leave their car and enter the city by train or metro.
The main character Hugh Ryan is a network controller at the Authority. The body of the story takes place during a single day.
On that day an important NATO conference is set to take place. It requires the presence of many foreign heads of state. For Hugh the day begins normally enough but when rush hour starts, it turns into a nightmare as one network after another breaks down. Gridlock sets in. The trains and metros are stopped. The cars, stuck in a massive traffic jam, have nowhere to go. They cannot park inside the city and they can no longer leave it.
Akila Kama, the leader of an African terrorist organisation, the Oppressed Peoples’ Army contacts the city authorities to give his demands. Sickened by interminable revolutions, wars and famines caused by meddling capitalist governments, they have taken their fight to the heart of Europe. Helped by Wellens, a local crimelord, the OPA have caused the breakdowns to take both Brussels and the decision-makers of the Western World hostage. Kama warns that his men have succeeded in placing bombs in each hotel where a head of state is staying, despite the high-level security measures.
The OPA demand that each government pledge the equivalent of one year’s military budget to create the biggest humanitarian aid package the black continent has ever seen. Any leader refusing to accede to these demands will be blown up. For once, ‘acceptable losses’ are out of the question.
By spotting the one mistake the OPA make, Hugh determines where they are hidden. The Burgomaster, the Belgian equivalent of a Mayor, sends in an anti-terrorist squad with the intention of catching some of them alive. A firefight occurs before the squad is ready and all the terrorists are eliminated.
However, the day is far from over. While the OPA were keeping the city authorities busy Wheeler has stolen a revolutionary weapon from the American Army before they can show it off at the conference. To attain his goals he has required the services of one of Hugh’s colleagues to paralyse the city, and to remain anonymous he had to be sure the OPA would be eliminated. He sells the weapon and hides the money, but events get the better of him.
Finally Hugh is able to repair the networks and free the city from its paralysis. His keen, analytical mind, honed by his years at the Transport Authority, helps him to figure out the plan within the plan. He aids in the capture of his traitorous colleague and ultimately, finds the money, which he puts to good charitable use.
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