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Title : Silk and Steel, Part 87
Authors : fredbassett & munchkinofdoom
Fandom : Primeval
Characters : Stringer, Connor, Thomson, Lorraine, Miller, Annie, Blade, Lacey, Abby, Leek, Lyle
Rating : 18
Disclaimer : Not ours, no money made, don’t sue
Spoilers : None
Summary : The situation inside the ARC worsens.
Warning : Slave!fic.
A/N : The links to all previous parts can be found HERE. Captain Thomson appears by courtesy of [ profile] deinonychus_1, and Tanya Lacey appears by courtesy of [ profile] reggietate.

8.15am. The Atrium. Anomaly Research Centre.

“What the hell’s happening?” Stringer’s voice was low as he came to a halt by Thomson’s side but there was no mistaking the concern in his tone. The head of the field response teams had obviously been unconvinced by Thomson’s announcement that the system was undergoing testing and had come down to see what was going on for himself.

“I have no bloody idea,” Thomson admitted as he watched Connor’s fingers flying over the keyboard in front of him. “The system is under some sort of attack.” He waved a hand at the screen in front of Ali Khan where Connor’s fellow technician was equally busy. “They don’t know if any of those alerts are genuine or not.”

“The way our luck’s been going, the whole fucking lot’ll turn out to be the real thing,” Stringer muttered.

Thomson nodded, his eyes trained on the one screen that he did understand, the one showing the views from the various security cameras around the interior and exterior of the ARC. With Stringer at his shoulder, Thomson sat down on a spare chair and started to run a series of checks. The main gate showed the barrier down and the two guards sitting inside the small checkpoint. A small red car that he recognised as belonging to Lorraine Wicks was pulling up. One of the guards stood up to conduct the usual checks on her vehicle.

He ran quickly through the feeds from the various cameras situated around the perimeter fencing. They all showed the killing ground between the two sets of wire defences as being devoid of life apart from a large fox giving the electric fences a suitably wide berth. It looked like Miller was doing a good job of staying out of everyone’s way for a change by conducting a security check of his own on the section of fence the furthest from the building. It was unlike him to be quite so zealous at that time of the morning, but at least it meant Thomson wouldn’t be on the receiving end of more complaints about the man’s boorish behaviour for a while. He was rapidly reaching the conclusion that it was time to arrange for a transfer for Miller. He’d outlived his usefulness and as Thomson’s assignment to the ARC looked to be turning into a lengthy one, he could do without the distraction of keeping the man on a short lead all the time.

Behind him, Stringer suddenly said, “Can someone turn the sound up on that news channel?”

Thomson looked up in time to see a shot of a large, modern building in flames, a cloud of dark smoke billowing into the air out of what appeared to have once been reflective glass panels, now broken and distorted.

As he watched, wondering what it was that had caught Stringer’s interest, the news feed cut back to the studio and, over the sound of Connor and Khan typing rapidly and muttering to each other, he heard the announcer say, “…a possible terrorist attack on the world-famous Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge is under investigation. It is not yet known whether there has been any loss of life…”

8.16am. Security Checkpoint. Anomaly Research Centre.

Lorraine Wickes put her car into gear and pulled away from the security checkpoint after exchanging the usual early morning pleasantries with the two men on duty as they searched her car.

While they had been conducting the usual checks, she’d remained behind the wheel, hoping that they would have finished what they were doing before Sergeant Miller arrived. She could see him approaching the checkpoint on foot from the direction of the main building. She had no desire for any close encounter with him. She wouldn’t put it past the sergeant to take it into his head to conduct a strip search, just to make life unpleasant for her.

She pressed her foot down on the accelerator pedal, ignoring the internal speed limit signs in her haste to get away from the man. Fortunately, Miller’s blank stare seemed to be focussed more on the checkpoint than on her.

8.20am. Science Labs. Anomaly Research Centre.

Annie Morris watched the scene unfolding on the screen in front of her with mounting horror. The mug of tea Blade had brought her sat untouched on the desk

A massive explosion in the Cavendish Laboratory, her place of work for the last ten years, had blown out numerous windows and a large section of the front wall, raining debris across the road and onto the grass beyond. Even from where the footage had been taken it was clear that the damage was massive.

Annie felt Blade’s hand on her shoulder and turned to look up at him. “My room is… was… there.” She pointed at what had been the second floor of the building. “There’s… there’s nothing left, Niall.” The shock had settled on her like a heavy blanket, dulling her mind as the thought sunk in that if she’d still been in Cambridge she would have been there, in her lab, with her colleagues… her colleagues who might now be injured or dead.

He squeezed her shoulder reassuringly. “You’re not there, Professor, you’re here.”

“My colleagues, Niall…” Tears welled up in Annie’s eyes as a wave of desperate exhaustion swept over her and she started to shake.

No one in her laboratory would have stood a chance of escaping a blast big enough to have blown out the front wall. It just wouldn’t have been possible. And like her, they all liked to start work early.

She turned away from the screen. Blade drew her gently to her feet and held her close as the tears started to flow.

8.24am. Bunkroom. Anomaly Research Centre.

Tanya Lacey swung her feet off the top bunk and jumped lightly to the floor. She’d heard Thomson’s order to disregard the ADD alarm but hadn’t been able to ignore the prickle of unease that the noise always evoked in her. She’d spent so long reacting to its summons that to do simply nothing went against the grain.

Knowing she would now be unable to get any rest, she pulled on her boots and considered going in search of coffee.

In the lower bunk, Abby was curled up on her side, eyes closed, too tired for the alarm to have penetrated her sleep. The other woman’s face looked young and achingly vulnerable. Lacey had a huge respect for Abby. Her abilities as an animal handler had saved them from disaster on numerous occasions; she was good back-up in a tight corner and was one of the few people in whose company Lacey felt able to fully relax. As the only woman in a tight knit Special Forces detachment, Lacey knew that being as good as the men wasn’t enough, she had to be better, but to do that, any woman had to tread a fine line between being accepted by her squad mates and being dismissed as a ball-breaker.

Fortunately for her, Ryan had run the unit with a rod of iron where equality was concerned, unlike several of her previous commanding officers, at least one of whom had expected her to warm his bed in her off-duty hours. Tears pricked Lacey’s eyes and she dashed them away with the back of her hand. She’d kept a tight rein on her emotions in the immediate aftermath of Ryan’s death, doing her best to support Abby and the others by maintaining a calm pragmatism, but if truth be told, there had been several occasions when all she’d wanted to do was sit down and ball her eyes out.

She glanced at her watch. 8.23. Coffee was definitely an appealing idea, especially if the ADD alarm was going to keep on going off. She could also do with a trip to the equipment store to pick up a new personal radio. Hers had developed an intermittent fault and had proved unreliable on several occasions the previous night. Lacey picked it up off the bedside table, stuffed it in her trouser pocket and grabbed her shoulder rig.

“Be back soon, Abs,” she murmured, not sure whether the sleeping woman had been aware of her moving around or not.

Abby grunted something unintelligible and turned over to face the wall.

Lacey opened the door and came to an abrupt halt. Staring at her down the length of the corridor was a living, breathing nightmare that had haunted her dreams far too often for comfort.

The predator lowered its gnarled head and snuffled. It looked subtly different to the ones Lacey remembered from their desperate battles in the ARC only a short time ago. It was more brown than grey, with a more prominent spine than she remembered and longer, horribly skeletal limbs. Another difference there was no red control device on its head.

Her semi-automatic was in her hand in a split-second. She had absolutely no idea how the creature had come to be in the ARC again but she had every intention of shooting first and asking questions later.

The harsh metallic sound of the slide on the pistol being racked to chamber a round made the predator take a step backwards but wasn’t enough to convince it to leave well alone when it had already scented prey.

It sprang.

Lacey fired.

The bullet passed through its body but didn’t even cause it to pause in its attack.

She stepped back into the bunkroom and slammed the door.

Abby was already on her feet, the innocence of sleep replaced by the hard-eyed stare of a woman who had come close to death on all too many occasions.

“We’ve got company,” Lacey said calmly. “But it’s left its red hat at home this time.”

Abby’s eyes widened in shock as she processed that information.

“And my radio’s fucked,” Lacey added.

“I left mine in the Hilux,” Abby said equally calmly. “Shall we just conform to a stereotype and scream very loudly?”

Lacey grinned. There was nothing to be gained now by trying not to attract the predator’s attention. She’d managed that already quite successfully. “Sounds good to me.”

And together, they started to yell.

Lacey just hoped that there was someone left alive in the ARC to hear them.

8.28am. Highbury Road. West London.

Lyle conducted his usual safety checks on the car, despite the fact that it had spent the night inside the garage at the side of Leek’s house. Life now reminded him of his days in Afghanistan when you never got into any vehicle without checking that it hadn’t been tampered with.

Despite the fact that his thumbs had been driving him mad for most of the night, he couldn’t find any sign of a problem. He gave a thumbs up sign to Leek, signifying that it was safe to join him. Leek slipped into his accustomed place in the passenger seat while Lyle got behind the wheel.

Their progress for the first few minutes was rapid, but then they ended up behind a line of stationary traffic waiting for a set of temporary traffic lights to change. It looked like some road works had sprung up over night. Lyle grimaced. He loathed sitting around in a car waiting to move, which was why he’d never bothered to find digs outside the ARC the way some of the lads had done. The bunkroom was good enough for him when he was on duty, and his rare downtime had usually been spent at Stephen’s flat.

“Good job you’re the boss,” Lyle commented as the traffic lights changed for the third time without their car having made any forward progress. “At least nobody can moan at you when we trail in late.”

“Nice to know there are some perks to the job,” Leek replied, still staring down at the battered leather note book he’d spent every spare moment of the previous day and night reading, ever since Thomson had blithely dropped his little bombshell in Leek’s lap and left him to decide what to do about it. “Don’t tell the taxman, or they’ll find a way of making being late for work with impunity a taxable benefit in kind.”

“And you get the pleasure of my company at the same time. Things don’t get better than that, do they? People are going to start talking.”

“They already are,” Leek muttered, not lifting his eyes from the tangled scrawl of Helen Cutters handwriting.

As the traffic lights turned green and the car in front of them failed to make any forward progress, Lyle continued to scratch at his already sore thumbs. In spite of his attempts at humour, he felt deeply unsettled. A nagging sense of unease had settled on him the moment Thomson had arrived on Leek’s doorstep, and over the last few hours the itch in his thumbs had intensified.

Trouble was brewing, he had no doubt about that. Helen Cutter wouldn’t take the loss of her precious notebook lying down. The only question was, who would make the first move and when. Leek was still trying to get his head around the ramifications of what they’d learnt and who – if anyone – in the higher echelons of the government could be trusted with the knowledge they’d gained without immediately wanting to throw in their lot with Helen simply to gain access to the technology she possessed. There seemed to be no easy answers to that question but Lyle knew time was running against them now. Speaking personally, he was in favour of just putting a bullet in her head and he thought Leek and Thomson weren’t far off adopting that as a plan of action.

A sudden loud noise assaulted Lyle’s ears. He twisted in his seat, trying to work out where it had come from. It had sounded like an explosion, and a big one at that. He’d made enough things go bang in his time to recognise the sound of a bomb going off.

He was out of the car in an instant, staring around him until he caught sight of a plume of smoke rising in the air. A quick appraisal of the direction the smoke was coming from and the distance they’d travelled brought him to a very unwelcome conclusion.

As his brain processed that information, he caught sight of a man dressed in motorbike leathers wearing a full face helmet getting off a motorbike 50 metres away. The man swung a short, thick tube up onto his shoulder and braced himself, feet apart.

“Get out of the car, Mr Leek,” Lyle ordered. “Now!”

Something in his tone must have made Leek’s survival instincts kick in without wasting time on questions. In a matter of seconds the man had grabbed his briefcase, stuffed the notebook into it, and was out of the car. Lyle rolled over the bonnet, grabbed Leek by the arm and hauled him across the pavement, catching hold of a passer-by with his other hand and propelling her bodily through a garden gate and behind a high hedge before she even had a chance to scream.

A moment later another explosion ripped through the air, along with the sound of shattering glass and the unforgettable noise of metal being torn apart as Leek’s car disintegrated under the impact of a high-explosive rocket-propelled grenade.

Lyle snatched his Glock 19 out of his shoulder rig and started to run, dodging the twisted metal of the burning car and the debris scattered on the ground by the blast. As the man started to load another mortar shell, Lyle dived behind a car and squeezed off two shots in rapid succession. The first took the man in the stomach and the second sent a fountain of blood spraying from his throat. As he dropped to the ground, the mortar rolling out of his hand and coming to rest in the gutter, Lyle prepared himself to snap off a head shot if needed.

Lyle ignored the blood still pumping out of the man’s throat and pressed the catch to release the helmet. If someone had just tried to blow him and the man he was guarding into tiny pieces, he at least wanted to know who their attacker was.

He pulled the helmet off and stared down at the dead man’s face.

The sightless eyes of Sergeant Miller stared back at him.
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