Series: Three Years, part 3
Characters/pairing: Ryan/Connor, Claudia
Warnings: A.U., violence, scenes of torture, occasional language.
Spoilers: Anything through to episode 5.
Disclaimer: Not mine. ITV and Impossible Pictures own them.
Word count: approx 5000
Summary: Out of the Jurassic frying pan, into the fire…
AN: Read the warnings – this chapter contains scenes of torture. There’s nothing gratuitously violent or gory, but I appreciate that some people may not like it, so if you don't want to read feel free to skip ahead to the last couple of scenes. It’s safe from the scene that starts, “He was left alone for much longer this time.”
Five hours earlier:
The three men hadn’t spoken since they left Ryan’s room. They hadn’t needed to; the pistol pointed discreetly at his side as they walked through the building had said enough. Bizarrely, it wasn’t even the guns that bothered Connor so much. He was used to guns now, he was used to being escorted around by at least two heavily armed Special Forces guys. Okay, actually pointing the gun at him was new. But the really scary thing was hearing Ryan yelling after them, and seeing the confusion and worry in his face.
Whatever was going on, it wasn’t normal.
The car was the same inconspicuous black governmentmobile that he was used to. Maybe a bit bigger, maybe the windows were a bit darker.
“Where are we going?” he asked as they got in the car, two of the men in the back with him. And why isn’t Ryan going as well? Connor wanted to ask, but didn’t.
The car turned left instead of right at the end of the road.
“This isn’t the way to the Home Off-”
It all happened at once. He saw the men starting to move, but he wasn’t fast enough to stop them. Something – a bag? a hood? – was pulled over Connor’s head and his arms were dragged round to be secured behind him with something that was hard, tight, painful.
Connor hadn’t even realised he was starting to yell until something that he was certain was a gun jabbed into his side, and a voice said, “Don’t make a sound, Temple.”
Connor abruptly shut up, and tried not to start panicking, or hyperventilating. But he couldn’t see anything, and he couldn’t pull the hood thing away from his face and this was all so many shades of wrong that he couldn’t even process what was happening for a few crazy, head-spinning moments.
He couldn’t breathe. He knew that was stupid, there was plenty of room, the hood was loose, but it was against his face and he couldn’t pull it away and claustrophobia suddenly kicked in big style. Connor thought that maybe he ought to be paying attention to the movement of the car and which direction it was turning and how far they were going, because that was what James Bond would have done, but he couldn’t bloody breathe and he couldn’t see anything and whatever they had used to tie his wrists was cutting into his skin and catching when he tried to move and it hurt and he didn’t want to die not like this please god don’t let them kill me.
He had no idea how long the car was moving for. No idea where they were. The gun was still shoved into his side, and he didn’t dare try to speak, or move, which was stupid when he thought about it because whatever was going on they obviously needed him alive so they weren’t going to shoot him here in the car, right? Right?
Eventually the car stopped. Was that good? Or did that just mean things were about to get worse? They didn’t take the hood off and Connor was dragged out of the car and guided across a gravel surface and up stone steps that he kept tripping on but the two men on either side of him had a tight enough hold on his arms that he didn’t fall. He heard doors opening and closing, and realised he was inside a building. Another door, and then he was shoved to sit down, and someone dragged his arms over the back of the chair and he heard a weird sort of zipping sound and realised his wrists were now tied to the chair somehow.
Cable ties. Shit, that’s what the zipping sound had been. Connor knew there was no way he could break those, and every time he tried to move his wrists he could feel the plastic digging into his skin. After only a few moments it hurt, so he stopped trying to move.
The men who had brought him in left, he heard a door closing, and Connor wondered if he was alone.
Where the hell am I? Who are these guys? Government? MI5? Something else? Since his initial panic in the car, Connor had had enough time to gain some degree of control of himself. Whatever was about to happen, and his imagination was already in overdrive on that subject, he was going to need a clear head to talk his way out of it.
It was cold in this room. Not freezer-cold, but definitely not-heated-room-at-the-end-of-October-co
“They say you’re supposed to be a genius,” a voice cut through Connor’s thoughts like a razor, and he jumped and looked around which was stupid because he couldn’t see anything anyway. There was someone in here, and he hadn’t heard anything since the other guys had left so he had been here all along, not saying a word.
“Who are you?” he hoped his voice didn’t sound as scared as he thought it did.
Footsteps on a hard floor – cement? – came towards him, and the voice spoke again, closer this time.
“I’ll give you this one for free, genius. You don’t ask the questions here.”
“Who are you? What the hell’s going on?” Connor couldn’t help himself, the words spilled out before he could stop them.
The blow landed right between his shoulder blades and was completely unexpected, and it was the shock rather than the force that made him yelp and jerk forwards. The sudden movement jarred his shoulders, and the cable ties bit into his wrists again.
Connor was still trying to catch his breath when the voice spoke again.
“You like dinosaurs, don’t you, genius? You’ve spent most of your life making that little database of yours. Oh by the way, thank you for leaving that behind, it has been most useful.” He paused, and despite everything Connor had a moment to think, so that’s where it went. “But I think maybe one or two creatures every month wasn’t enough for you, was it? Is that why you decided to take off into the Jurassic?”
“What? It was an accident. I got thrown through the anomaly by the stegosaur. It wasn’t on purpose.”
“I notice no one else got themselves knocked through the anomaly. Just you. And you had more than enough time to come back before Ryan followed you. Taking a leaf out of Helen Cutter’s book, were you?” There was no discernable accent to the voice, it sounded posh, Queen’s English like a newsreader, if newsreaders had suddenly become really very sinister.
“No. It was an accident. We almost died out there. Why would I want that? We spent then entire time trying to get home.”
“Really? That’s not what you said before.” He heard a brief rustling of paper. “And I quote: ‘You should have seen it. It was amazing. All those dinosaurs. I could have stayed there forever just studying them’.”
It took a moment for Connor to remember that he’d said those exact words to Claudia at the first debriefing.
“Yeah, but, I didn’t, I mean, that’s not what I meant. I didn’t go though the anomaly on purpose.” Connor knew he was starting to babble, and tried to get some sort of control over his voice. He could hear footsteps moving around behind him, but he couldn’t tell where they were going. Classic technique; keep your victim confused and disoriented. Understanding the technique didn’t change the simple fact that it was working.
“Did you plan all this with Ryan beforehand, or was that an ‘accident’ as well? You must have known you’d need a bodyguard.”
“I didn’t know he was going to follow me.”
“So why didn’t you come straight back when you realised where you were?”
“I was surprised. I was distracted, it was amazing. I wanted to look at stuff for a minute. But I didn’t want to stay, I didn’t want to get trapped there. I didn’t want Ryan to get trapped there either.”
The voice was suddenly very close to his ear.
“You’re lying, genius. I know you’re lying, I know you’re hiding things. And I’m going to find out what those things are. The only question you have to ask yourself, is how long you want it to take, and how much you want it to hurt.”
Footsteps walked away and before Connor could say anything he heard a door open, and then close again. This time he thought he really was alone.
Connor didn’t know how much time passed before the man with the newsreader voice returned. It could have been five minutes, or it could have been half an hour. He knew it was long enough to have really worked himself into panic, no matter how much he was trying to stay calm and think clearly. It was also long enough that the cold was making him start to shiver, especially his bare arms, and that was making the tension in his shoulders and the pain in his wrists even worse.
The second round of interrogation was focused on the anomalies. Question after question; what did he know about them? Had there been any other anomalies in the Jurassic? How had he found the one that led here?
These were all things that Connor had covered time and again with Claudia and Lester over the last four days. He knew this guy had been listening to those conversations, or at the very least he had read the transcripts. So why all of this? Connor wasn’t saying anything different now to what he had already told them, so whatever this guy was looking for he wasn’t getting it. Connor wasn’t sure if that was good or bad.
More than once he wondered if he should be keeping his mouth shut. He had signed the Official Secrets Act, and if this was all a test to see whether he could be trusted then he was pretty certain he had spectacularly failed it. But Newsreader Voice obviously knew about the anomalies before they had started talking, obviously had access to a lot of the classified information, and as long as he stuck to saying what he had already told Claudia then he wasn’t betraying anything, right?
Connor had always liked to think he would be a hero in a bad situation; he had been insanely happy on the couple of occasions when Cutter or Ryan had complimented him on being brave. But right now all he wanted was to get this over in any way in he could. Part of him was horrified and ashamed of how quickly he had started talking, telling the man everything. The other part of him didn’t care as long as it got him out of here soon.
“I told you,” he tried again. “Helen told us where to find it.”
“Yes, Helen Cutter. Convenient, her turning up like that, don’t you think?” Newsreader Voice was somewhere in front of him, but he kept moving around.
“She said Stephen told her we were missing.”
“So tell me, genius, why did Stephen never mention this to anyone else?”
“I, I don’t know,” Connor said. That was what she’d said, right? He tried to remember, but he’d said all of this so many times now the memories were starting to blur, he was starting to confuse the way he had described things with the way they had really happened. He knew the moment he contradicted himself he was going to be in trouble.
“Strange, don’t you think? Surely if Stephen thought there was a chance you might be found he would tell us, or tell Cutter at the very least.”
“Maybe he did but you all forgot. It was three years ago for you.”
“Was it? Did Helen tell you what time she was from? Did she tell you how long you had been gone from her perspective?”
“I don-, I think,” Connor stammered to a halt. Had she said when she was from? He couldn’t remember.
“When was she from?” the voice snapped.
“I don’t know,” Connor insisted, trying and failing to keep the frustration from his voice.
This time he almost reacted fast enough to the blow, but not enough to deflect it or to lessen the sharp stab between his shoulders, or the ripple of pain than ran down both arms. That had happened four times now, every time in the same place.
“Please, I don’t know. I don’t remember. I don’t think she said when she was from. We just assumed she was from the same time that we were. We never thought she could be from anywhere else. Please, I’m telling you the truth.” He didn’t want to plead like a bloody coward, but he couldn’t stop the words, or the fear in his voice.
He tensed against another blow, but it didn’t come.
“Why are you protecting the bitch who abandoned you to die?”
“Protecting? I’m not, I just…”
“She left you. You were being attacked by dinosaurs, and she left you to die. Why did she do that?” Newsreader Voice was talking calmly, slowly, but everything he said was so persistent, he was like a dog gnawing at every tiny detail over and over until there was nothing left but bone. His tone suggested he could go on doing this for hours.
“I don’t know. She said we were too slow, that we’d never make it to the anomaly in time, that it was a waste of time trying any more.”
“She said this as she was leaving you?”
There was a long pause, and then a strangely satisfied note to the voice when he said, “Yes. After. When you went after her on your own. Let’s talk about that, genius.”
Connor didn’t say anything, he didn’t dare. This was the one thing he really didn’t want to talk about, the one lie. No, actually, the second lie, but no one had pressed too hard about the other omission. But this, this was the only outright lie. And Connor knew with terrible certainty that as soon as he tried to talk about it this man would know he was lying.
Just stick to the story. The same thing you told Ryan and Claudia. But he couldn’t force the words out any more, he was too afraid, and he knew he was telegraphing that fact and that was only going to make it worse.
“What happened when you went after Helen Cutter?”
The same words. Stick to the story. Say something.
“I stopped her. I persuaded her to tell me where the anomaly was.”
“And what? That’s it, that’s all she said.” Connor’s heart was racing. Newsreader Voice didn’t say anything, and the seconds dragged out longer and longer. Somebody had to speak soon, but his throat was dry and he knew every word out of his mouth was going to be a betrayal.
“Do you know what I’m holding in my hand, genius?” Newsreader Voice spoke quietly, right next to Connor’s ear. He hadn’t heard the guy move again.
No, there’s a bloody bag over my head and I can’t see anything, I don’t have a bloody clue what’s in your hand, Connor thought. He didn’t speak.
There was a sudden pressure in his side, something that felt like a gun again, but sharper.
“I am holding an electro-shock baton. At the touch of a button it will cause a 50,000 volt electric shock.” He paused and then said, “Do you know what 50,000 volts does to a human body, genius?”
Jesus Christ no. It’s a trick, it’s a psychological trick. Please god let it just be a mind fuck.
Connor felt himself starting to shake. He wanted to come out with some witty quip, something that would show he wasn’t scared, that this wasn’t going to work. He still wanted to be a hero. This was the make or break point, right? This was the moment when real heroes would have the perfect answer, the escape plan, the one-liner that would leave the bad guy speechless and fuming, and give them the moral and psychological high ground.
Connor’s mind was blank. And he hated himself for it.
“Of course, I’ve heard the effect varies from one person to another,” Newsreader Voice continued. “It’s all down to body size, musculature, stamina. Why don’t we find out what it’ll do to you?”
“No! Please, god, no.” Connor tried to pull away from the baton pressed into his side but he couldn’t move far enough. The cable ties cut into his wrists again as he pulled on them, and he felt skin tearing.
“Then tell me what happened between you and Helen Cutter.”
“She got away. I turned my back and she got away.”
The baton was pulled away from his side and something hard impacted across his chest. Connor yelled and by the time he realised there was no electric discharge the words were already spilling out.
“She wanted me to abandon Ryan and go with her.”
The room was silent for a while. Connor tried to make himself calm down, but his heart was still pounding and he knew this time he had really fucked up.
He hadn’t told anyone about what Helen had offered him. He had kept it from Ryan in the Jurassic because he hadn’t wanted his friend to know what she had said about him. He hadn’t told Claudia because… he didn’t know why. Maybe because he’d already lied about it once, and he didn’t want Ryan to find out. Maybe because he didn’t want Cutter to know what his wife was really like. But once the lie was told it was easier to keep telling than to admit the truth.
“I knew you were lying about something,” Newsreader Voice whispered.
The pain in his wrists was getting worse. He could feel sticky fluid around the sharp edges of the ties, but he didn’t know if it was sweat or blood.
“She asked me to abandon Ryan and go with her. She said she’d take me home the scenic route. She’d show me dinosaurs, and different time periods.” It was out already, was there any point hiding the details now? Somewhere in the back of his mind Connor was disgusted and ashamed of himself for breaking so easily.
“So why didn’t you go with her?”
“I didn’t want to leave Ryan behind. He was hurt. He’d die on his own.”
“But you wouldn’t. You were being offered a way out. Isn’t that what you wanted all along? A way home? Why risk everything for a man you hardly know?”
“I couldn’t leave him. Not after everything that had happened.”
“And what did happen, genius?”
No. No. You’re not getting that. I’m not bloody telling you that.
“Why go back for Ryan?”
“I don’t know.” Connor could hear the fear and misery in his voice. He felt sick.
“Why?” Persistent bastard.
“I don’t know.” Please god let this stop soon.
The electro-shock baton stabbed into his side and this time pain surged through Connor’s body. Every muscle, every nerve was on fire. He screamed, his body arching up, trying to get away from the cause of his torment but it followed his movement and he screamed again as a massive convulsion ripped through him. Abruptly it stopped and he fell back into the chair. It felt like his wrists were bleeding properly now, but the pain in his wrists was obliterated the moment his shoulders started to cramp. He was shaking, gasping for breath, fighting to stop himself vomiting. He could hear a series of terrified whimpering noises, and it was several moments before Connor realised he was the one making them.
“When you’re ready to tell me the truth, we’ll talk again,” Newsreader Voice said without any emotion.
By the time he left the room and closed the door, Connor had already started to sob.
He was left alone for much longer this time. He had no idea how long; an hour, maybe more, he had no way of telling.
Connor was really shivering now, and although the cramp had passed, the tension in his shoulders was terrible. Far worse, though, were the thoughts continuously circling round in his head. He had broken, he knew that much. He couldn’t take that again. Just the threat of the electro-shock baton would have him talking, he was certain of it. Connor wanted to be a hero, like all the really cool characters in films, but he knew now that he wasn’t. He was nothing. He was a coward. He had no thought other than to get this over in any way he could.
But the more he thought about it, the more Connor was starting to believe that he might never leave this room alive.
He heard the door open, and he heard the frightened whimper before he even realised he’d made a sound. Footsteps came towards him, but these were different, it wasn’t the man with the newsreader voice.
“Shhh,” a voice said next to him, and suddenly he felt a tugging on the cable ties. Connor hissed in pain as the ties bit into his skin again, and then abruptly something snapped and his hands were free. Connor’s first thought was to get the hood off his face, but after so long his shoulders were stiff, and his hands didn’t seem to be co-ordinated any more, although whether that was from cold or lack of circulation he didn’t know. He felt tingling pain as blood started to flow back into his hands, and sharp spasms in his shoulders when he finally did manage to move. The hood was pulled off, and he blinked against the sudden light until he could see the very worried face of Claudia Brown.
“Shush,” she said again quietly. “Can you walk?”
He honestly didn’t know, and when he tried to stand he wobbled for a moment until Claudia slipped an arm round him and helped him to the door. Connor had a brief impression of a large room with windows high in the walls before they were in a corridor, white painted and bland, but old looking. There was no sign of anyone else as they headed down the corridor and to a set of double doors that led out onto a gravel driveway. Connor squinted in the sudden sunlight after so long in the dark, and didn’t really pay any attention to where they were going. They reached a car parked some way off next to a line of trees that seemed to be skirting the drive. Claudia helped him to get into the passenger side, and then got in and started the car, with more than one backward glance at the building.
Connor tried to speak, but all that came out was a choking sound, and he had to try again before he managed to say, “What’s going on?”
“I’m getting you out of here.”
Connor caught sight of himself in the side mirror, and hastily wiped his face.
“You knew about this?” He didn’t want to believe it, but the fact that Newsreader Voice had had access to the transcripts from previous debriefings meant that he was working for the same agency as Claudia in some way.
“Not at first,” Claudia said, still checking the mirrors and looking back far too frequently to be careful driving. “When I realised there was something going on you had already been taken. Lester tipped me off about where you might be.”
Lester knew? Lester had let them do this to him? Connor felt the first stirrings of real anger.
He stared out of the window. When the car turned the corner, he caught a glimpse of a large red brick building that looked like it might once have been a school. Then it was hidden by a skirting of trees and a high brick wall. Hidden. The government’s nasty little secret hiding in plain sight right here in London. Connor felt sick.
“Are you okay?” Claudia asked him once the place was behind them.
He saw her glance across at him, but Connor refused to meet her look. Everything still hurt, and he didn’t trust himself to speak because Claudia was the one who had got him out and she didn’t deserve the rage that he knew was building somewhere inside him.
“Where’s Ryan?” he asked.
“We’re going to meet him. If he got out okay.” She glanced at her watch. “Shit.”
The fact that he had never heard her swear before caught Connor by surprise and jolted him out of his thoughts for a moment.
“We’re running late. And I don’t know how long we’ve got before they work out that I’ve taken you.”
“What?” Connor struggled to catch up with what she was saying. “You mean you weren’t supposed to get me out?”
Her sudden laugh was on the edge of hysterical, and entirely devoid of humour. “God, no. I’m not even supposed to know that building exists, let alone have the authority to override what they were doing.”
“I bluffed like crazy and hoped that the men on guard wouldn’t check with whoever was in charge before we’d got away.”
There was a slight shake to Claudia’s voice as well, and Connor started to realise exactly how much of a risk she had just taken, and for the first time he began to appreciate how much had really changed, and how much Claudia, and maybe even Lester, were now as much pawns as he was.
“Thanks,” he said eventually.
“This isn’t over yet,” was the only reply Claudia gave him.
Ryan swore quietly. He had waited too long, he had to go. But there was still no sign of Connor. Another five minutes, that was all he could give them, then he would have to leave regardless.
Then he saw Claudia walking towards the bridge and Connor just behind her. Ryan waited another few moments scanning the park for any sign that they were being followed. When he was sure they were alone, he slid out of the bushes and ran over to them.
“You’re still here,” the relief was evident in Claudia’s voice.
“Are you okay?” The question was directly mostly at Connor, but not entirely. Of all the people who Ryan had expected might be rescuing Connor, Claudia wasn’t appearing anywhere near the top of the list.
“Much as I’d like to stay and chat, we don’t have time for pleasantries, Captain. You two have to go.”
Ryan nodded. “So what are the orders, Miss Brown?”
“Orders?” Claudia looked slightly startled. “There are no further orders. Just go. Escape. Try to stay alive.”
Ever since the conversation with Lester, Ryan had been working on the assumption that someone, somewhere, had an overall plan. The fact that there apparently wasn’t a plan, and that the entire afternoon had been a seat-of-the-pants fuckup from start to finish was in no way comforting.
The surprise must have shown on his face, because Claudia tried to explain.
“I’m sure if Lester had any choice in the matter he would have preferred to get you both out in a far more subtle manner. But everything happened so fast, there just wasn’t time.”
No fucking shit, Sherlock, he thought.
He had been in worse situations than this before, but not by much. There was a whole pile of difference between being in enemy territory with a squad of trained soldiers, and being thrown into this with Connor. Even a brief glance suggested that the younger man wasn’t in a fit state to go on the run. Ryan wasn’t insanely pleased with the idea either. But, whilst he didn’t know the full details of the situation, he knew enough to appreciate how much of a risk both Claudia and Lester had taken for them today. He had to be grateful for that, at least.
“Can you try to see that Corporal Barclay is okay? He helped me get away. I tried to make it look like he was chasing me, trying to stop me from escaping, but I know he’s going to end up in a shitload of trouble.”
“I’ll do what I can for him,” Claudia promised. Ryan couldn’t help but wonder if she would have enough trouble watching her own back, let alone trying to protect Barclay as well. Connor seemed to be thinking along similar lines, because he spoke up for the first time since Ryan had seen them.
“Will you be okay?” he asked Claudia. “They’re going to know that you helped us.”
“I should be,” Claudia said, but there was nervousness to her voice. “It’s easy to make you two disappear, you’re officially dead, only a handful of people even know you’re here. I’m still a government official. They can’t just make me disappear with impunity.”
“Why?” Ryan wasn’t normally a man who questioned instructions, but everything was just too insane. “Why are you doing this? Why are you risking so much to help us?”
“Because they’ve gone too far this time.” She had a hard, determined edge to her voice that Ryan wasn’t used to hearing. “This isn’t why I joined the government. This isn’t the way we do things.”
“Even Lester draws a line somewhere.”
She hesitated for a moment, and then held out a hand to Ryan. He was about to take it, when she changed her mind, and suddenly hugged him.
“Take care of Connor,” she whispered to him. “And take care of yourself. Be careful, Ryan.”
He nodded as she stood back, still surprised by the hug. Claudia handed him a set of keys, and an envelope.
“Blue Nissan parked just to the right of the park gates. It’s a hire car on a government account. Paperwork is all inside the car. It’ll be reported stolen by tonight, but it should get you away from here okay. And there’s three hundred in cash. The best I could manage at short notice, sorry.”
They stood there for another moment, looking at each other, until Ryan took hold of Connor’s arm and started walking towards the car. He looked back once to see Claudia heading in the opposite direction.
He had a very bad feeling that it might be the last time he ever saw her.