Series: Three Years, part 2
Title: Any Means Necessary
Characters/pairing: Ryan/Connor, Lester, Claudia, OC
Warnings: A.U., occasional language.
Spoilers: Anything through to episode 5.
Disclaimer: Not mine. ITV and Impossible Pictures own them.
Word count: approx 5300
Summary: Out of the Jurassic frying pan, into the fire…
Ryan was bored. He hated being inactive, he hated being stuck inside all the time, and he wanted his life back.
It was four days since they had returned, and he and Connor still weren’t allowed to leave the hotel, or even go further than each other’s rooms without an armed escort. When they did get taken out of the hotel, it was always under guard, and only as far as the Home Office for further questioning. The questions had been getting more specific, and seemed to be focusing on Helen Cutter and the anomalies. This didn’t change the fact that as far as Ryan was concerned, he had told them everything he knew in the first debriefing, and now they were just repeating the same things over and over, and he still didn’t know any of the answers that they so clearly wanted. Lester and Claudia seemed to be becoming as frustrated as he and Connor were with the whole situation, and yet it carried on every day, the monotony only broken when the civil servants were called away to another anomaly on the third day.
When they weren’t being subjected to the very English equivalent of the Spanish Inquisition, Ryan struggled to find things to keep himself occupied. There was only so much exercise he could do inside, and he wanted to get out for a run. His leg was healing, bruises were fading, and he just wanted to do something. For a while he had talked to Robinson, but after the second day Robinson and Lewis had been replaced on that guard rota, and he hadn’t seen them since. After that, he made sure that his interaction with Barclay never went further than a smile and a nod. He didn’t want to lose the only other familiar face in his life.
The upshot of this was that he and Connor were spending a lot of time together in his room, although at least now Connor was returning to his own room to sleep. Sometimes they talked for hours, sometimes they didn’t say a word to each other, just spending the time in companionable silence.
For the last couple of days Ryan had spent a lot of time watching, and occasionally providing comments, while Connor wrote. The younger man had been particularly pissed off by the fact that they had taken his notebooks with everything he had written about the Jurassic, and also his mobile phone with all the pictures. After two days of pleading he had finally managed to get Claudia to give him a new A4 pad and a pen, and he was now most of the way through what appeared to be a set of articles about Jurassic dinosaurs. He had tried to explain exactly what his theories were, but Ryan had only followed him as far as phrases like ‘herd behaviour’ and ‘hunting strategies’ and then he gave up. Ryan had decided it might be safer not to mention his suspicion that once Connor had finished writing them, there was a very good chance that someone was going to take those away as well.
The ever present worry about hidden microphones meant that there was a lot that they hadn’t talked about, or even acknowledged since they got back from the past. But when they were together, especially when they were simply sitting in silence, there was a tension that Ryan couldn’t ignore. And so their strange relationship continued. Too much going unsaid to be just a friendship, too much still unknown to call it anything else.
“I wonder what happened to my laptop?” Connor commented without even looking up from his work. “I need to check some facts about other ceolurosaurs for comparison.”
“Maybe Cutter or Abby still have it.” For want of anything else to do, and because he was very, very bored, Ryan was sprawled on the bed trying to decipher Connor’s handwriting, and absently correcting spelling errors in the stuff he’d already finished. He glanced up and saw the frustration on Connor’s face. Ryan knew it wasn’t just down to the missing laptop.
One thing that had surprised Ryan was that Cutter and his team hadn’t been to see them. It didn’t particularly bother him, but he suspected that Connor was a lot more upset than he was letting on about the apparent lack of interest by their erstwhile colleagues.
There was a knock at the door, but it didn’t open. Normally the soldiers didn’t bother to wait for a response, they just came in. After a moment Ryan got up and went to open it himself.
“Good morning, Captain,” Claudia said. “May I come in please?”
She closed the door behind her, and went to sit at the table opposite Connor. There wasn’t room at the small table for all three of them, not without potentially leaning on Connor’s scattered notes, so Ryan leaned against the wall beside the window where he could see both their faces.
“I’m glad you’re both in one place. That makes this so much easier.”
“What’s going on?” Connor interrupted. There was an angry edge to his voice that Ryan hadn’t expected. “Why are we still stuck here?”
“I’m sorry,” Claudia said. The look on her face made him think she really meant it. “That’s what I’m here to talk to you about.”
Ryan wondered if he should have offered to make drinks, but he wanted to get on with whatever it was Claudia was going to say.
She didn’t immediately continue, and spent a moment straightening her skirt, adjusting her jacket. She was fidgeting, and that was so completely unlike the Claudia Brown he knew that Ryan was immediately on edge. What the hell was she about to say?
“While you were gone, things here have become,” she paused again, and eventually opted for the word, “Difficult.” She let that stand for a moment. “Over the last three years the anomalies have started to appear more frequently. A lot more frequently. Nick has been working on theories to predict them, and sometimes he’s even got close, or we’ve got lucky, and we’ve managed to be in the right place in the right time to catch them. But there have been other occasions when we haven’t. It was only a matter of time before an anomaly appeared in a public place and creatures got loose on the general public. Four months after you disappeared was the first time that happened. Six people were killed, and several injured before we managed to stop the creature, a sabre-tooth cat. We barely managed to cover it up with a story about an escaped big cat. And that hasn’t been the only major incident.”
She paused again. She was managing to keep her expression fairly neutral, but Ryan could see the nervous tension in her body language.
“Nick’s theories have helped, but even after all this time we can’t accurately predict them. We’re still mostly just reacting. Helen Cutter has shown her face more than once, but she always manages to stay one step ahead of us, and she never gives away anything more than she has to. Never enough to really let us get ahead of the game. Although, we haven’t seen her for some time now. Not since Thomson shot her.”
“What?” Connor asked. His anger seemed to be dissipating as Claudia spoke. Ryan wasn’t sure if that was a sympathetic reaction, or just relief that they were finally being told something.
“There are standing orders to capture her. What she knows about the anomalies could help us to prevent more catastrophes. Unfortunately, the last time she was seen the attempt to capture her didn’t go as planned. She was shot as she was escaping. We haven’t seen her since. That was three months ago.”
“But she’s not dead is she?” Connor asked.
“We don’t think so. There was no sign of a body, we can only assume she made it to an anomaly and got away. We have no idea how badly injured she was, though, or what might have happened after she escaped.” There was obvious concern in Claudia’s voice, but it seemed to be tinged with bitterness.
That explained all the questions over the last few days, at least. These people were desperate to find Helen, and the story he and Connor had told involved seeing her just a few days ago. But that didn’t ring true. Ryan tried to get his head round the time travel thing, and realised the Helen who had helped them in the Jurassic had to have come from earlier than this, maybe from three years earlier, because he had seen no evidence of a gunshot wound, or any other kind of injury on the woman.
“We don’t know where she is. The Helen we saw was from nearer to our time, not yours.” Connor had clearly just followed the same train of thought. “We don’t know anything more about the anomalies. Why would we hide anything if we did know? Hell, you lot have got three years of study on this that we haven’t. You probably understand them way better than us.”
“I believe you,” Claudia said sincerely. “For what it’s worth you’ve convinced me that you’re telling the truth. And Lester as well, for that matter. Unfortunately there are others who are finding it harder to understand the time difference, the five days part of your story.”
Suddenly an alarm bell went off in Ryan’s brain. Surely if Lester was convinced then this whole situation could stop now. But the way Claudia had phrased it made it sound like Lester didn’t have the final say on this. Who the hell was higher up than Lester on this project? Who was pulling the strings now?
“That’s insane,” Connor said with barely disguised outrage. “Look at us. Look at the stuff we had with us. Do we look like we’ve been living in the past for three years?”
“Like I said, you’ve already convinced me.”
“So how much longer are we going to be stuck here?” Connor pressed.
“Hopefully not much longer. Things are happening. Trust me, we’re working on it. We just need more time. It was far easier to fake cover stories for your deaths than it is to fake cover stories to bring you back to life.”
She wasn’t meeting either of their looks as she spoke, and Ryan knew that wasn’t the whole truth. They were the Home Office; it wasn’t that bloody difficult to create cover stories if they really wanted to do it.
“I’m sorry I don’t have better news for you.” Claudia stood up and fidgeted with her jacket again. “I really have to go, there’s a lot of work to do.”
Ryan watched her leave the room, his mind turning over everything she had said, and everything that she hadn’t said. It was the latter which was far more worrying.
“Is it just me,” Connor said slowly, “Or was that a really weird conversation?”
Ryan smiled to himself. Trust Connor to take a complex scenario and boil it down to a flippant, yet surprisingly accurate, summary.
“It’s progress,” Ryan said carefully. There was no point in broadcasting to any audio bugs the fact that they had picked up on Claudia’s evasiveness.
Connor looked like he was about to say something else, but then caught sight of Ryan’s warning expression and closed his mouth again.
“Just hope we’re out of here soon,” he muttered as he went back to his writing.
Ryan wandered back to the bed, squeezing Connor’s shoulder as he went past.
“Me too, mate.”
There wasn’t even a knock. The door just opened, and three men walked in. They were in plain clothes but they were all armed with pistols.
“Temple. Come with us, please.” It wasn’t a request; it was quite clearly an order.
Connor stood up, looking slightly confused. He glanced at Ryan, possibly for reassurance, but the soldier had no idea who these guys were either.
“What’s going on?” Ryan asked, getting up. It was about an hour since Claudia had left them, and he was immediately suspicious of the second break in routine that day.
“We have orders to take him for further questioning.”
The man spoke like military, but Ryan didn’t think he was. There was something very wrong, and he moved to try to put himself in front of Connor, but he was too late and one of the men had already taken hold of Connor’s arm.
“Just Connor? Where?” Ryan pressed. The men pulled Connor into the corridor, one of them keeping a very close eye on Ryan, and a hand even closer to his gun while he did so. As soon as Ryan tried to follow them out of the room two of the soldiers in the corridor moved to block him.
“Hey!” Ryan yelled as the men walked away. Connor wasn’t even trying to protest, or struggle, and Ryan was suddenly certain that one of the men must have pulled a gun on him. “Hey!”
The soldiers in front of him shoved Ryan back into the doorway. He tensed, mentally weighing his combat options, and then he caught sight of Barclay hanging back behind the others. Barclay was staring right at him, and very slightly shook his head, a warning. Ryan hesitated, and then stepped back away from the confrontation. He knew he couldn’t win against six Special Forces men. He was good, but he was nowhere near that good. Connor was already gone, and Ryan waited for the soldiers to stand down before he closed the door.
Ryan took a couple of deep breaths, and then leaned against the door and closed his eyes.
He didn’t like this one bit, and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it.
He spent another hour or two restlessly moving around the room. Lunchtime came and went, and he forced himself to eat the unappetising jacket potato and salad.
Someone knocked on the door and then came in. It was a lieutenant, Ryan thought he had heard one of the men calling him Harper, and he looked both bored and pissed off. The lieutenant was pointing his gun at Ryan as he came in, and Ryan made a show of holding his hands out open at his sides, obviously unarmed.
“Lester wants you,” Harper barked.
What the fuck was going on now? Ryan fell into step in the middle of the escort, noting that there were now only four soldiers in the corridor. Where were the two who should be waiting for Connor to get back? Did that mean that they weren’t expecting him to come back at all? At least Barclay was still here, but Ryan didn’t dare risk sharing more than the briefest look with the young corporal. Barclay clearly wasn’t happy, and looked almost as tense as Ryan was.
The ride to the Home Office passed in silence, and he was taken back to the underground debriefing room. Lester was already in there, which was odd. At all their previous meetings he had kept Ryan waiting.
“Thank you, that will be all Lieutenant,” Lester said as soon as Ryan had sat down.
“Sir?” Harper questioned.
“You and your men can go. Take a break.”
Ryan saw the lieutenant’s gaze flicker to him, and then back to Lester.
“Sir, regulations state that a guard should be present at all times.”
“Yes, yes,” Lester sounded impatient. “All right, fine. He can stay.” Lester indicated Barclay. When Harper still hesitated, Lester said, “Come on now Lieutenant. I hardly think the captain is going to make a run for it from here, do you?”
Harper and his other two men left, and Lester closed the door behind them.
“Captain Ryan,” he said by way of a greeting.
“Where’s Connor?” Ryan couldn’t keep the anger out of his voice. He knew he needed to keep it under control, but he was wound up, and tense enough to snap.
“Right now, Connor Temple is the least of your worries, Captain.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means you have yet to provide us with any useful information, and questions are being asked about the inconvenience of keeping you at the taxpayers’ expense.”
That was a new threat, and completely unexpected from Lester. “So give us our lives back and we won’t be.”
Lester sauntered around and leaned against the table right next to Ryan, looking down on him with what appeared to be a very good impression of his usual supercilious expression, but wasn’t quite managing to hide a tension that Ryan recognised all too well.
Lester was afraid.
“Come now, Captain. You know it isn’t that easy. The fact is, you are dead, and purely from a logistics point of view it would be far easier if you remained that way. Unless, of course, you start to co-operate. Are you getting the message, Captain Ryan?”
What the hell was going on? Message? Lester had dismissed everyone except the one solider who was even remotely sympathetic, and yet he was being too obviously, openly antagonistic. What was he trying to do?
“Is that a threat, Sir?” Ryan said with the most neutral voice he could manage.
Lester chuckled. “What do you think, Captain? Ultimately, everybody is replaceable. We are all expendable. Unfortunately for you, right now you are also entirely deniable. As is Temple. You could both just disappear and no-one would ever know. And we wouldn’t want that, would we? So the question you have to ask is, do you want to go down without a fight? Go out with a bang, or a whisper?”
Lester leaned back on his hands on the table, leaving himself entirely unprotected, almost as if he was inviting attack…
Ryan leapt out of the seat and with one fluid movement he had the civil servant pressed down on the table, his hand very loosely held around Lester’s throat, his face inches away from the other man’s. Barclay was there in seconds, yelling, pointing his assault rifle at him, but doing nothing to pull Ryan off.
“I was starting to think you’d never get the idea,” Lester said under his breath as Barclay continued to yell at Ryan to back off. “We don’t have much time, and this is the only way to talk to you without being overheard. Your life is in danger. When you leave this building you should make your escape. Barclay will do what he can to assist. Go to the bridge in Hamilton Park, and wait there. Someone is attempting to retrieve Temple as we speak. If they have not arrived by four o’clock, then you should assume that they are not coming, and make every effort to leave the area. As soon as it is discovered that you have escaped, I will be forced to give the order that you are to be found, and stopped, by any means necessary.”
Lester paused, and his mouth twitched into a grim smile as he added, “I trust, Captain, that you will not allow that to happen.”
Ryan knew they couldn’t carry on the pretence of this scene for much longer. Barclay’s yelling was becoming more insistent.
“Should you be found, I will, of course, deny that this conversation ever took place. Good luck.”
Barclay grabbed the back of Ryan’s t-shirt and dragged him off Lester.
“Get down on the bloody floor,” Barclay yelled, and Ryan obeyed. The last thing he needed right now was Barclay getting disciplined for failing to control a prisoner. “Face down! Get your hands on your head.” Barclay clearly felt he needed to make a show of overreacting after letting the confrontation with Lester go on so long.
“Thank you Corporal. Better late than never,” Lester drawled.
A clatter of footsteps came into the room, and Ryan heard Lieutenant Harper’s voice.
“Not any more. Would you please escort Ryan back to the hotel, Lieutenant. I think we’re done here.”
Ryan was dragged to his feet, and didn’t resist. He noted that Barclay was staying close. He still had his hands on his head, and saw the lieutenant pull out a pair of cuffs. Lester glanced at him for a second, and then said, “I hardly think that’s necessary, Lieutenant. Unless, of course, you think that you and your men are incapable of controlling one man who you outnumber four to one.”
Ryan made sure he didn’t even look like he was thinking about smiling. Lester was good, he had to give the guy that at least. Harper put the cuffs away, trying, and failing, to hide the fact that he was both offended by the suggestion, and still pissed off.
“Move,” he ordered, shoving Ryan towards the door.
As they marched through the back corridors of the Home Office, Ryan mentally weighed his options against these guys for the second time that day. Four was better than six, and Barclay was onside, but Barclay almost certainly couldn’t openly fight his own men, and certainly not a superior officer, so that made it three to one. Still not good odds, especially considering that they were now watching him even more vigilantly than before. Ryan had no idea how he was going to pull off what Lester was asking him to do.
They were nearly at the door that led onto the covered car park when he heard Lester’s voice behind them.
“Lieutenant, can I have a word, please?”
Everybody stopped, and Lester tutted from down the end of the corridor.
“In private, please.”
Harper looked even more pissed off, but waved the rest of his men to carry on.
One down. Thank you Lester.
They stepped out into the car park, and yet another unmarked black car pulled towards them. One man was in front of him, the other on his right side. Barclay was behind him. Good. The car stopped in front of them. The blond guy in front opened the back door and waited. Ryan didn’t move.
“Get in the car,” Blond said without even trying to disguise the contempt in his voice.
Ryan didn't move. “Make me.”
Ryan expected the blow from the guy on his right and rolled with it, ducking low and trying to take the guy’s legs out with a sweep kick. It wasn’t entirely successful, the guy reacted fast, and they both staggered against the car. Blond grabbed him from behind and wrapped his arm around Ryan’s throat in a choke hold. Idiot, Ryan thought. He slammed his head backwards and heard the crunch as Blond’s nose fractured. Blond released his grip enough for Ryan to swing round and hit him properly, putting him down on the floor with a punch to the already smashed nose. Barclay made an ineffective grab for him from behind, and Ryan twisted, swinging his elbow round and pulling the blow at the last second. He still hit Barclay right in the face, he had to, to maintain the masquerade that Barclay was trying to stop him. He just hoped it looked convincing enough.
The first guy was shouting and the driver was getting out of the car as well, and Ryan knew he had to finish this fast. He wasn’t fast enough. The other guy smacked the butt of his assault rifle into the side of Ryan’s head. He dodged enough of the blow to avoid being knocked out, but his head was spinning as he lunged at the guy and they both fell against the car for the second time. Ryan managed to ram his knee into the guy’s groin, and then used the partially incapacitated soldier as a weapon, swinging him round and into the driver, knocking them both to the floor. Ryan took one last look around, and started to run.
The entrance to the car park was going to be guarded, and he could already hear the sound of more footsteps. He really hoped the nearest set behind him was Barclay, but didn’t dare to look back. The sharp sound of pistol shots echoed off the concrete. Shit, Lester hadn’t been bloody kidding about ‘any means necessary’. Ryan kept running, grateful for the training that had taught him never to run in a straight line in a combat situation. There was a car parked next to the wall, and he leapt onto the bonnet, up onto the roof, and used the extra height to scramble over the top of the wall. A bullet ripped through his jeans and he felt it ghost past his skin and impact the concrete. Then he was over, and dropped down the fifteen feet to the street below. He rolled with the landing, ignoring the stabbing pain in his leg. Fuck, that hurt, no matter how much he thought it had healed. He recovered quickly and took off across the road, ignoring the sound of the alarm behind him, and the yelling from the guard at the car park entranceway. He heard another voice yelling at him to stop, recognised it was Barclay, and carried on, knowing the young man had followed his insane leap off the wall. The kid had more guts than he’d thought.
Ryan raced down several streets, cutting through side streets where possible, zigzagging across roads and dodging past any pedestrians who didn’t get out of the way fast enough. He was grateful that the streets were relatively quiet in this part of the city in the afternoon. He finally stopped to catch his breath in a narrow alleyway off a side street.
A few moments later Barclay skidded round the corner.
“Bloody hell, Sir, I didn’t think you could move that fast.”
“Yeah, running for your life is a hell of a motivator.” Ryan abruptly grabbed Barclay and pushed him against the wall. “Now will you tell me what the fuck is going on, Corporal Barclay?”
Barclay wrested Ryan’s hand off his collar as he replied. “I don’t know the details. Lester only had time to give me the heads up about getting you out.”
“I don’t know where Temple is. I swear, I don’t know. I’m not important enough to get told shit like that. Lester thinks both your lives are in danger, though.”
“You know you’re risking a court martial by doing this and helping me,” Ryan said. “Why?”
“Because right now my orders are coming from Lester, not Thomson. Plus, with the rumours of Section 42 –”
Ryan had heard of Section 42.
“I don’t know for sure, Sir. I heard a couple of the other guys talking about it. I think that’s where they’ve taken Temple.”
No way. No fucking way.
“Where? Where is it?”
“I don’t know, Sir. Look, we need to move, now.”
“I can’t let you come with me. I appreciate your help, but I can’t let you throw your career away on this.” Barclay had been the newest, and youngest, member of Ryan’s squad before, and even after three years he was still barely older than Connor. He was a good soldier, and a good man, he had been before, and from what Ryan had just seen, three years hadn’t changed that.
“It’s too late, Sir. They’ll know I helped you. I’m already finished.”
“No. Tell them you were chasing me. Tell them I got the drop on you. You’ll probably end up on all the shittiest duties for a month, but they can’t court martial you if they can’t prove it.”
Ryan saw the sudden realisation in Barclay’s eyes a second before Ryan punched him. Barclay’s head snapped back and hit the brick wall behind him. He looked dazed, so Ryan tried to be as gentle, and quick, as possible when he slid Barclay’s pistol out of his holster, and used it to knock the young man out. He lowered the man to the floor, trying to make it look like he’d fallen there.
“Sorry mate,” Ran said quietly as he searched Barclay’s pockets. “But with any luck that just saved your career.”
And maybe even his life. Ryan wouldn’t put anything past these people any more after today. He took Barclay’s pistol and spare ammunition, his watch, and all the notes out of his wallet. Thirty quid. It wouldn’t get him far, but it was a start. Ryan shoved the gun into the waistband of his jeans, and left his t-shirt untucked over it. Risky, but there was no way he was going into this unarmed.
He heard the sound of footsteps approaching, and headed to the other end of the alleyway. It was blocked by a chain link fence. Ryan scaled the fence in seconds, dropped down quietly on the other side, and then he started to run.
Ryan glanced at Barclay’s watch for the tenth time in the last few minutes.
Still no sign of Connor. Lester had given no indication of who was ‘retrieving’ Connor, so he had no idea who else to look out for. Still, he was here, at the specified meeting point by the bridge in Hamilton Park. To be more accurate, he was crouching in the bushes a short way from the bridge, his position picked to maximise his own visibility of anyone approaching, while remaining hidden from all but the most observant of people. Which was a fantastic idea tactically, and a bloody crap idea practically. He had been here for an hour and half, and his leg was starting to hurt again from holding the enforced crouched position. It was also bloody cold to be sitting still outside with just a t-shirt on.
It was October 20, 2010. Wednesday. A brief glance at a newspaper stand on the street as he walked past had finally told him an accurate date. It was a perfectly normal Wednesday for all the people wandering past him with shopping, briefcases, talking on mobile phones, walking their dogs; living their normal lives in cocoons of happy obliviousness.
Ryan had been sitting here for about half an hour before the truth of his situation sank in completely. He was on the run from the government, AWOL from the armed forces, and a fugitive in the eyes of the country that he had sworn to protect and fight for. It was all very well for Lester and his absolute deniability. He wasn’t the one who was going to be hunted down ‘by any means necessary’. Lester wasn’t officially dead, a non-person in a country that was probably even more paranoid about identity now than it had been three years earlier.
Where the hell was Connor? Why wasn’t he here yet? Had something gone wrong? Lester had told him in no uncertain terms to leave if they hadn’t arrived by four o’clock. Ryan wasn’t yet sure what he was going to do when it did get to four o’clock. He didn’t want to abandon Connor, he knew that much. But he also knew the longer he stayed in London the more chance there was that he’d end up dead or arrested. And he was no good to Connor if that happened.
He had heard rumours of Section 42. Never anything more than rumours, but enough that he suspected it was real. Enough that the thought of it in conjunction with Connor was sending his imagination into overdrive.
He was covered in cuts and bruises. Most of them were old, yellowing, from the Jurassic, but the fight in the car park had added a few new ones, and he could feel a painful lump forming on the side of his head. He needed something with sleeves to cover the worst of it. He needed to remain inconspicuous. It was the only way to get out of London safely. If at any point he was stopped or challenged it was going to get tricky. Better to not get stopped in the first place. Better to look so utterly inconspicuous that no one gave him a second glance. Looking like he’d just done several rounds with Mike Tyson was not going to help him achieve that aim.
Where the fuck was Connor?