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[personal profile] fredbassett
Title : Silk and Steel, Part 85
Authors : fredbassett & munchkinofdoom
Fandom : Primeval
Characters : Thomson, Leek, Lyle
Rating : 18
Disclaimer : Not ours, no money made, don’t sue
Spoilers : None
Summary : Leek gets an unexpected visitor.
Warning : Slave!fic.
A/N : The links to all previous parts can be found HERE. Captain Thomson appears by courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] deinonychus_1.

Thomson let the pub door slam shut behind him as he strode in out of the teeming rain. Several of the customers and the shaven-headed barman stared at him in irritation. He treated them to an equally hard stare in return, knowing full well that even without his customary black uniform no one in the room would mistake him for anything other than military. The steel collar around his neck made no difference to the respect Thomson knew he was capable of commanding and he made no attempt to hide it.

Covering up a collar with the intention of disguising Indentured status was an offence punishable by a mandatory ten lashes plus the same number of years adding to the length of your service. It was rarely attempted by anyone, and never by the military, who almost always wore theirs with a pride that bordered on defiance.

A glance around the dingy backstreet bar revealed that the man he’d come to meet was exactly where Thomson expected him to be, in a corner with his back to the wall. Old habits died hard. An empty pint glass on the table told its own tale. They’d both arrived early. That was another old habit. He’d taken a circuitous route to his destination and was as sure as he could be of not being followed and the other man would have done the same, but getting to a meeting place early was still a good precaution.

“Two large whiskies,” Thomson told the man behind the bar as he eyed a poor selection with irritation. “Bell’s.”

“Ice?”

The whisky was almost certainly a cheap, generic brand, despite what it said on the bottle, so Thomson nodded. The ice could hardly make it worse, although he normally subscribed to his father’s oft-stated view that good whisky didn’t need water and bad whisky didn’t deserve it. A slight smile curved his lips at the memory. That would almost certainly be something he and Cutter would agree on, even though he had little else in common with the man. From what Thomson had seen of the professor so far, the phrase loose cannon could have been coined for him, although Cutter had surprised everyone by how well he’d held himself and his team together in the aftermath of Ryan’s death. From what he’d read in the reports, Cutter was volatile at the best of times, and the last few days couldn’t be forced to fit that description by even the biggest of optimists.

He slid the money across the bar, picked up the drinks and went over to join the man in the corner, angling his stool the same way to keep the room, and in particular the door, in his line of sight.

“Good to see you, boss.” The man accepted the drink, took a mouthful and grimaced. “Jesus, it tastes like it’s been distilled in barrels soaked in cat piss.”

“It was either this or recycled slops masquerading as beer,” Thomson remarked.

He cast a glance at the empty glass and the other man grinned. Thomson had worked with Mike Hendry on several operations and the man’s capacity for bad alcohol was legendary. Thomson had seen him drink a bottle of home-brewed spirit that could strip the paint off tables and afterwards still put a bullet between someone’s eyes at 50 paces with a handgun. A roadside bomb just outside Lashkar Gah had taken his left leg off at the knee, ended his time in both special ops and the army and freed him of a collar in recompense. Hendry had spent his severance pay on the best prosthetic leg money could buy and now ran marathons for a hobby.

“I hear you’ve got yourself mixed up in something even crazier than usual,” Hendry said, fishing a package out of the inside pocket of his jacket and putting it on the table.

Thomson raised one eyebrow. “Who’s been talking?”

“None of the lads, that’s for sure, but there are a few rumours doing the rounds in town. The powers that be can’t scatter DA notices around like confetti and not expect people to talk.” He nodded at the packet. “But before you ask, no, I haven’t read it and no, I don’t want to know what’s going on.”

Thomson picked up the Tesco bag that Hendry had handed over and looked inside to find a battered leather-covered notebook that he’d last seen being stuffed back into Helen Cutter’s shoulder bag. He pulled an envelope out of his own pocket and handed it over. Hendry’s services didn’t come cheap but he was reliable, and that was what counted.

Thomson tossed the rest of the whisky down his throat and stood up. “Thanks, Mike. Give my love to Shelley and the kids.”

Hendry nodded. “Look after yourself, boss. You’re swimming in shark-infested waters, even by our standards.”

Hendry was right about that, but if Thomson’s hunch was correct, he’d just been handed something that would serve to blow one of those sharks right out of the water.

* * * * *

Two hours later, in an entirely different – and somewhat more salubrious – pub, Thomson had drunk three pints of beer followed by the same number of whiskies and still felt stone cold sober. Uncomfortably sober, in fact. The barman caught his eye and he nodded. Another drink certainly wouldn’t go amiss. Mike Hendry had been right. Thomson really was up to his neck in crazy shit. Section 42, and by extension, the government, already wanted the technology that that they believed Helen Cutter had at her disposal, and if they knew in greater detail what she had access to, they’d want it even more. So much so that they might well be willing to deliver the entire Anomaly Research Centre into her hands to get even a fraction of it.

The notebook was impossible to decipher in some places, yet terrifyingly clear in others. He now knew how Helen Cutter had managed to evade Section 42’s clutches, even though he couldn’t say he understood it. He also knew that if they made another attempt to capture her, it would just end the same way, with men dead and Helen vanishing through an anomaly of her own making, an anomaly that she could call up without any obvious control mechanism. All she had to do was bring it into being through the activation of nanites within her own body. Even the idea made Thomson’s head hurt, and that wasn’t the only thing in the notebook that had been almost beyond his comprehension.

Helen Cutter had obtained technology from a time in the distant future, technology that had somehow stemmed from work that had started in the ARC. Work that she believed had brought about the downfall of the human race and – what seemed to matter more to her – the almost complete destruction of all other life on earth as well. Thomson flipped through sketch after sketch of a ruined world, where predators fought for dominance over the scattered remnants of humanity that had survived a global cataclysm that Helen laid at the door of the Anomaly Research Centre, and in particular the work of Connor Temple and Annie Morris.

What was left of the human race had gone to ground – literally – taking with them what technology they could salvage and they were in the process of fighting back, but Helen had apparently decided to take matters into her own hands. She had returned to the present day with the express intention of interfering in the course of history. But then something else had happened. Something that did more than make Thomson’s head hurt. He didn’t like science fiction at the best of times, and that was what Helen’s notebooks closely resembled.

It was now abundantly clear that Thomson’s instincts had been correct about more than just the fact that Helen Cutter was a manipulative bitch with trouble written all over her. She was also ruthless enough to have engineered the deaths of numerous people in pursuit of her goal, the irony of which appeared to be wholly lost on her. The phrase the end justifies the means appeared to have been coined with her in mind.

He tossed the whisky down his throat, left enough money on the table to pay for his last few drinks and headed out of the door. The night air was cold and light rain was starting to fall. Thomson pulled up the collar of his jacket and went in search of a taxi. Acting on an impulse that even he didn’t wholly understand, he gave the driver an address and settled down in the back, still checking as a matter of course to ensure he wasn’t being followed.

The taxi came to a halt half an hour later in a tree-lined residential street. Thomson handed the driver a £20 note and walked up the path before he could change his mind. He lifted the heavy iron knocker and brought it down with a satisfyingly loud thump. Thomson stared at the spyhole in the door, making no attempt to look away. A few moments later, the door opened and he found himself staring into a pair of exceedingly wary hazel eyes.

“To what do we owe the honour, sir?” Lyle asked, one his blandest expressions now replacing the surprise that had been there a second ago. The soldier was dressed casually in teeshirt and jeans but wore his Glock 19 openly in a shoulder-rig.

“I need to talk to Mr Leek.” Thomson looked past Lyle and caught sight of Leek in the hallway. He was dressed equally casually and Thomson realised this was the first time he’d ever seen Leek wearing anything other than a suit.

Lyle glanced over his shoulder and received a slight nod by way of assent. The lieutenant stood to one side to allow Thomson in, while his eyes raked the street, checking for any sign that Thomson had been followed.

“There’s no one out there,” Thomson said, although the uncomfortable thought that there could be watchers of a kind that he couldn’t easily conceive of pressed down on him like an invisible weight. As Lyle closed the door, he said, “I don’t mean to be insulting, Jon, but are you sure this place is clean?”

Lyle shrugged. “So far as I can tell, yes. Although I can’t vouch for the state of the back bedroom since Finn slept there.”

Thomson saw him absently scratching the thumb of his left hand with his forefinger and decided that Lyle’s instincts for such matters were probably as good as any bug-sweeper, but what he’d read earlier that night had got him more rattled that he liked to admit, even to himself.

“I take it alcohol is in order,” Leek said calmly, even though he could no doubt already smell the beer and whisky fumes that had almost certainly settled around Thomson like a cloak.

Thomson debated whether to kneel and decided that discretion might well be the better part of valour but when he made a move in that direction, Leek simply waved him back to his feet with a dismissive gesture and walked off into the kitchen.

Lyle followed, and without being asked, pulled a few cans of beer out of the fridge and a bottle of brandy out of a cupboard. The easy familiarity between Lyle and Leek was something that Thomson made no pretence of understanding. He’d read the reports and knew the history between them, even down to the unedifying details of Leek’s creative use of a whip handle, but for some unfathomable reason, Lyle had donned the mantle of his protector, and it would take a very brave – or a very stupid –
man to make a close quarters attempt on Leek’s life. All of Ryan’s team were formidable in their own way, but Lyle’s combination of near-suicidal bravery and almost preternatural anticipation stood out from even the best of them.

And he still wouldn’t put a bent penny either way on whether they were fucking or not…

The memory of Ryan and the series of events that had led to his death intruded forcibly on Thomson’s mind and he knew that Lyle had no reason to harbour any love for him. He’d come here alone and unarmed, without leaving any clue as to where he’d been going when he’d left the ARC. A slight shiver ran down Thomson’s spine that the amusement dancing in Lyle’s eyes couldn’t quite assuage.

The lieutenant poured two large brandies, put them on the table and pulled the tab on a can of beer for himself. He then leaned back against the kitchen work surface looking more relaxed than Thomson felt.

Leek took a mouthful of brandy and stared at Thomson out of eyes that were shrewder and more intelligent than he remembered and Thomson realised that for the first time he was seeing Leek without his mask of habitual obsequiousness. Stubble darkened his cheeks and only the white vest visible beneath his shirt gave any clue as to the man’s normal persona. Leek hadn’t proved to be as easy to manipulate as Thomson’s superiors had hoped and he was beginning to see through to the hard core beneath the soft exterior. Leek sat down in one of the kitchen chairs and waved his hand at one of the other chairs indicating that it was in order for Thomson to sit as well.

Thomson sat down, conscious of the fact that Lyle was behind him, but not wanting to give offence by moving the position of the chair that Leek had indicated. He needed these men’s goodwill.

Leek favoured him with a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “At the risk of being repetitive, Captain, I feel I must echo Lyle’s question and ask to what we owe the pleasure of your company? And why it couldn’t wait until tomorrow.”

Thomson pulled the notebook out from his inside pocket and placed it on the kitchen table in front of Leek.

Leek raised his eyebrows enquiringly but made no move to pick up the battered leather-bound book.

“It’s Helen Cutter’s diary,” Thomson said. “She knew in advance about the anomaly that opened in the school grounds. She sabotaged the Anomaly Detection Device in a bid to discredit the operation.”

“Well, she certainly succeeded,” Leek commented. He reached out and ran his fingers slowly over the leather cover before pulling it towards him and flicking through the heavily-annotated pages. After a few minutes in which all Thomson could hear was the tick of the kitchen clock, Leek closed the cover and looked up. “Why bring this to me?”

“Because if you read further you’ll discover that she wants to gain control of the ARC and put a stop to all research into the anomalies. She’s been to the future. She knew exactly what anomaly to choose for maximum havoc. She wanted James Lester out because of his involvement with Annie Morris, and with him gone, and her as Head Scientist, she gets to say what work is done and what isn’t. She has no intention of sharing her knowledge or the technology she’s got.”

“How very duplicitous of her,” Leek purred. “And how disappointing for your masters. But I fail to understand why you’re bringing this information to me.”

Thomson drew in a deep breath, exhaled slowly and replied, “Because she needs stopping and I don’t trust anyone in government to do that. They’ll fight like dogs over a bone to get access to the technology she has and in the process the ARC will get ripped to pieces. That’s already started to happen.” The look of polite scepticism on Leek’s face was starting to worm its way under Thomson’s skull and he was beginning to feel the effects of the amount of alcohol he’d consumed.

“There’s something else, isn’t there?” Leek said.

Thomson hesitated for a moment and then pressed on, knowing the next revelation would make him sound positively unhinged. “According her notes, this entire world only came into existence just over six months ago. She believes Nick Cutter comes from a different universe.” Thomson shook his head slowly. Even though he’d read large parts of her notes, he still didn’t understand what the hell she’d been on about. The thought of a world without Indenture was something he found it almost impossible to get his head around. As was the idea that an entire universe could just appear out of thin air, or rather out of some kind of energy burst from an anomaly.

Leek smiled. “Yes, Captain. So I’m led to believe. I must say that the idea of the existence of two Nick Cutters is actually quite unsettling. As, of course, is the idea of two versions of his ex-wife. “

“You don’t need to worry on that score,” Thomson said, before finishing the brandy in one swallow. “There’s only one Helen Cutter now for us to worry about.”

This time the look on Leek’s face went beyond polite enquiry and into downright curious. “How do you know that?”

Thomson gestured at the notebook. “It’s all in there, and a lot more besides.”

“So what happened to the other one?” Leek mused, reaching for the book again.

“She killed her.”

Leek’s eyebrows shot up and Lyle whistled through his teeth.

Thomson leaned back in his chair and took a mouthful of brandy. “It does rather give a new meaning to this town isn’t big enough for both of us,” he conceded.

Lyle reached over and tipped another generous measure of spirit into both glasses and then poured one for himself.

Thomson accepted his gratefully.

He had a feeling that this was about to turn into a long night.

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