A neighbourhood in St Albans is woken early by khaki-clad soldiers evacuating the area because of an unspoken emergency. Still half asleep, the families are bundled into army vehicles, ferried to an air base, and transferred to military cargo planes to be flown to a mysterious foreign location. But where and why? What is really going on?
During the journey, Imogen, 15, meets Rosie, 14, whose father is a pilot, and Marco, a shy boy of 13. The children make their goal to find out the truth and get home safely.
Arriving at a remote airstrip in a valley, a young girl known as Feral escapes and heads towards the thickly wooded slopes. The party are herded into jeeps. The children are separated from their parents and are taken to a big house in the foothills.
Marco is desperate to get home. He walks into the woods but is captured by English troops and imprisoned in a cottage in a clearing. Griffiths, a solder Marco thinks highly amateurish, interrogates him. Left in a locked room he hears a small boy in the next room, but then sees Feral through the window. Despite armed troops, Feral rescues Marco and leads him into the forest into a makeshift shelter.
The girls find a mother, Sarmina, and her disabled son Olti, but cannot understand the language. In a small town, they find a bar and see a couple from their flight talking to two Austrians, Heinz & Astrid Schachner, who tell them they are in Albania.
They meet most of the English people in a farmhouse, but Imogen’s parents, Christine and Ian, are breaking into the airbase. They succeed but are captured. Strangely they are soon back in the farmhouse. Barry, leader of the group, organises a search party to find Marco. Rosie and Imogen do not trust him but agree.
Marco worries when Feral suggests rescuing the boy from the cottage but goes along. They enter at night find the boy fast asleep but he does not want to go. At that moment the rescue party arrives. Marco goes with the parents but Feral escapes again.
Word has arrived in London. The senior officer running the Albanian mission, Martin Jackson, takes personal charge of the next phase, but his first decision is disastrous: displeased with Griffiths, he invites the devious Margaret Brophy to rescue Feral. Jackson continues with Phase 2 but reckons without Brophy’s secret plan, including the elimination of Griffiths and the capture of his son.
As coaches arrive to take the families to a camp, Imogen goes to the airbase. She finds a PA, but pretends to be a trainee and secretly goes to Jackson’s office. She finds a locked safe. Learning the combination, she opens the safe, grabs a folder and throws herself from the window, breaking a shoulder.
Rosie, Marco and Feral travel under protest but escape in a Jeep. Jackson makes a speech before returning because the children are missing. Arriving at Sarmina’s house, Rosie and Marco run into Astrid, who takes them to the control centre for Jackson’s operation. The house is occupied by Brophy’s troops, who take hostages and break into the base. The children and Astrid are held captive.
Disappointed by the folder and in pain, Imogen is picked up by Jackson’s car. Seeing her injury, he orders his driver to take her to a hospital, then continues on foot, but sees Brophy’s troops and realises they are taking the airbase.
The Executives in London panic: they appoint Amanda Cartwright to prevent further disaster, though she insists on calling in the Albanian army to recover the base from Brophy.
The parents are agitated about the children, and storm the coaches to drive towards the base.
Imogen has been treated in hospital and is still thinking through the situation. She too is determined to get back to the airbase. Despite medical advice she persuades a taxi driver to take her back. Near Sarmina’s house she chances upon Heinz Schachner, who knows his wife Astrid has been captured by Brophy. Together they head for the base.
As Jackson arrives at the base, he finds it surrounded by Albanian troops led by Colonel Nano, who looks set to invade. Amanda flies in and meets a deflated Jackson. They fail to persuade Nano, but instead find a back route into the cave below.
Imogen and Heinz sneak through the fence and reach the only plane, only to find Brophy’s troop inside. They are saved when Albanian troops outside the perimeter shoot Brophy’s men.
As the battle rages, the children outwit their guards. In the last plane they find Rosie’s parents, Sam and Helen, kidnapped to fly secret missions for Brophy. They meet up with Jackson and Amanda and after initial suspicion realise the adults will help them.
Heinz and Imogen survive the hail of bullets and stop in the tunnel. Rosie and Marco run to join an emotional reunion with Imogen. However, they still need to escape. Deciding to make a break for the plane they crouch low in the jeep and drive into the battle.
Blasting through the battle, the coaches unload the English at the plane, just as the others come from the tunnel. A coach draws fire from Brophy’s troops so the hostages can board the plane. With Sam at the helm they take off from Albania.
However, Brophy is in the cabin and orders Sam to fly to another destination. The children talk to her through the bulkhead and find her weakness: she once had a child herself. Without revealing the full story or her real goal, an emotional Brophy parachutes into southern Italy.
The plane flies back to London, but it is only there that Amanda reveals the truth about their stay in Albania, a massive twist the children had not anticipated. However, they thirst for more knowledge. Imogen finds out more about Brophy and is determined to discover the truth about the arch villain in their next adventure…