Chapter 1: One
Becker cursed and covered his head as another part of the wall gave way. Beside him the woman – an office worker whose name Becker couldn't remember – whimpered but shielded herself as well.
“Come on,” he shouted. “We're nearly there!”
“Don't let it get me,” she begged, clutching his sleeve.
“It won't,” Becker said, even as another slab of concrete crumbled onto the floor. “Just keep moving!”
Easier said than done. There was a mature Stegosaurus trampling its way through the ground floor of a four storey office building, and with each part of the wall that disappeared Becker got another glimpse of a wide, long tail swinging back and forth, wreaking some serious collateral damage on the ARC team.
“Don't look -”
But it was too late. The woman froze on the spot and screamed.
“Come on!” Becker grabbed her arm and pulled, almost yanking her off her feet. He pushed her ahead of him. The door was so close now. “That's it – run!”
The long tail smashed through another segment of wall, the debris bouncing off the back of his legs. The woman screamed again and Becker shoved her forwards. He had time enough to see her stumble to the door before something smashed into the back of him sending him flying into the wall.
That was the last thing he remembered.
o o o o o
He wakes up slowly, and his first instinct is to panic. The walls around him are white, there are people moving around and over him and he doesn't know where he is.
“Oh, thank God,” says a voice off to his left.
He twists his head to look. There's a man sitting beside his bed – pale brown hair, nondescript clothes and a blank expression – he wonders if that's who the voice belongs to. Then the man speaks again, and confirms it for him. “Doctor, how is he?”
There's a rustling noise on his other side; he leans that way – slower this time, there's an ache in his neck and shoulder on that side – and sees an older woman looking at the machines positioned over his bed. “Hard to tell, Mr Anderson,” she says. “There's evidence of trauma, obviously, but we won't know how extensive the damage is until we can run more tests – if that's okay with you, Captain?”
There's a pause. He blinks.
Captain. Did they mean him?
“Captain?” the doctor repeats, a note of concern in her tone.
He blinks stupidly. His head hurts. “Is that me?”
This is apparently the wrong thing to say.
o o o o o
“What do you mean, total amnesia?”
“Becker only took a thump to the head, he gets worse than that -”
“As I've been trying to explain, Mr Anderson -”
“- in the field. Not like this.”
Hilary Becker sits on the thin hospital bed, picking at his gown. The last half an hour has proven very informative. His name is Hilary Ewart Becker. He's twenty seven years old. The blank faced man is Matt Anderson – apparently both his boss and his friend. The female doctor – Rachel Thomas, according to the chart she'd left on the bed – has extensive military training, though he's not sure how he knows that yet. There are two more soldiers stationed just outside the door.
And his head still hurts.
Matt gestures at him. “Fix it!”
“It's not that simple,” Dr Thomas begins.
Hilary waves at them. “My head hurts,” he says, because he said it five minutes ago and no one gave him anything, and it's definitely worth saying again. He shifts on the bed. “I can't believe you put sick people on these things. There is no spot where a spring isn't trying to kill me.”
The two of them stare at him like they've never seen him before.
“I don't remember it, but I've been told I took a massive blow to the head,” he points out. “And all you've done is argue in a corner.”
Dr Thomas' eyebrows climb up her forehead.
“Are you sure you're feeling all right, Becker?” Matt asks carefully.
Hilary stares at him. “Do you really want me to dignify that with an answer?”
Matt doesn't have anything to say to that, though his eyes widen just a fraction. But Dr Thomas finally gets into gear and makes some adjustments to the IV drip still attached to Hilary's arm.
“Thank you,” he says sincerely.
Matt lets out a loud sigh. “Lester is going to love this.”
Hilary frowns. “Who's Lester?”
“Forget Lester,” Dr Thomas mutters. “What about his parents?”
Matt and Hilary frown in unison – it might be the first thing they've agreed on so far.
“I am not telling his mother,” Matt says firmly. “You are going to fix him so that we don't have to tell his parents anything.”
“Wait,” Hilary says. “I have parents?”
Matt and Dr Thomas stare at him.
“I know I must've had parents at some point,” Hilary says hastily, because he might have amnesia but he knows how things work and Dr Thomas looks like she might be considering giving him the 'talk', which fills him with both dread and the desperate need for a cup of tea. “But they're alive?” They must be. Another thought occurs to him. “Do I have any siblings?” He twists on the bed, but he can't really see anything beyond the white room he's in, and the soldiers still just outside the door. “Where exactly am I?”
Matt's mouth is open a little. Hilary thinks he looks surprised, maybe shocked. It's hard to tell. “Your parents are alive,” he says slowly. “Two siblings, according your file. And – you're in the medical wing of the ARC.”
He has a family. Cool. Hilary wonders if they're close, if he has a brother. He thinks he'd like that. Then he backtracks a little. “Ark?”
Matt sighs. “It's complicated, okay?”
Hilary frowns. How can an ark be complicated?
o o o o o
The man called James Lester stares at him impassively. “You fight dinosaurs.”
Hilary laughs. “Nice one.”
Lester sighs. “Do I look like a man with time to joke, Captain?”
Hilary blinks. “I fight dinosaurs? Seriously?”
Lester has the look of a man in dire need of a painkiller. Hilary feels his pain – well, he would, but the doctor clearly gave him the good stuff and it hasn't worn off yet. He grins. “That is just awesome.”
Another thought occurs to him. “Why do I fight dinosaurs?” His knowledge of, well, everything is kind of hazy, but... “Aren't they extinct?”
“Finally the penny drops,” Lester mutters.
“Wait a minute,” Matt demands. “How can you know that dinosaurs are extinct but not remember your own middle name?”
Hilary pulls a face. “Shouldn't you just feel lucky that I remember anything at all?” An image of him, a blank-minded thing having a panic attack flashes through his mind and he shudders.
“So what happens now?” he asks nobody in particular.
There's an excruciatingly long pause and a lot of eye contact between everyone except Hilary.
“I think you can handle things from here, yes?” Lester high tails it out of the room before anyone can reply.
“I'll go tell the rest of the team,” Matt says eventually and follows Lester out of the door.
“Hang on...” Hilary says to Matt's retreating back. What about his parents?
o o o o o
Over the course of the rest of the morning and afternoon, Hilary continues to learn things by quietly sitting very still on the hospital bed (still highly uncomfortable and totally unsuited for human use) and looking pitiful. He's not sure what this says about the person he's supposed to be with memories going back more than six hours, but intel is intel.
As well as Matt, he works with people called Connor Temple and Abby Maitland. Neither of them like infirmaries, or the sight of him in one, and don't stick around any longer than it takes for them to confirm that he has no idea who they are.
Soldiers trickle in and out. They're easier to deal with because they're upfront about simply wanting to ascertain that their CO is alive, mental status notwithstanding. From them Hilary gleans such information as the ARC stands for Anomaly Research Centre; anomalies are time portals that allow dinosaurs and other creatures to invade the present (which makes a lot of sense as long as he doesn't think too much about the details); he had a favourite shotgun that someone called Danny Quinn lost in another time period and never returned.
Nobody mentions his parents.
Maybe they're not close at all. Maybe they're horrible people and in his past life Hilary was horribly scarred from whatever dysfunction they'd imparted onto him and that's why nobody's mentioned them, or offered to phone them on Hilary's behalf.
Maybe Hilary was the horrible one and dinosaur hunting is some kind of personal penance for being a remorseless wanker.
Thinking about all of this makes him a bit unhappy, so he goes in search of a kettle. Dr Thomas has given him free reign of the ARC so long as he doesn't remove the IV drip (something about kick starting his memories), so Hilary wheels the drip in front of him and goes looking for a kitchen or a break room – anything.
What he finds is Jess Parker.
“Becker!” she says, startled, her coffee cup slipping in her grip. Liquid sloshes over the side and she looks guilty, shoving the cup down onto the worktop and grabbing a grungy looking sponge from the sink. “Damn.” She kneels down and hurriedly wipes up the spill.
“Are you all right?” he asks carefully.
“I should be asking you that,” she babbles, “I mean -” She gestures to her head and winces. “Oh God, you probably don't even know who I am, do you?”
“Jess Parker,” he says, feeling absurdly proud of himself.
Her face lights up. “You remember me!”
“Actually, Matt told me,” he admits.
Her face falls. “Oh.”
“But I remembered it.” That has to count for something, right?
Jess smiles at him again. “Are you supposed to be out of...”
Hilary glances down at himself. He's still in a gown that doesn't quite reach his knees – and there's the IV stand, of course. “I just wanted a cup of tea,” he says, suddenly nervous.
“Oh! I can do that.” Jess reaches into a cupboard for a bright yellow mug. “How do you take... you don't know you take it, do you?”
“I was hoping you did,” Hilary says. Or that it would be something he'd managed to retain, but he stares at the mug, and the kettle on the worktop, and the silver containers beside that – and his mind remains infuriatingly blank.
“No.” Jess deflates. “I'm sorry.”
Hilary leans against the IV stand, gripping it tightly.
“Perhaps,” Jess suggests slowly, her gaze flickering between him and the kettle, “you could try? Muscle memory might take over or something?” She gestures at the silver containers. “They're always in the same place.”
Hilary takes a step forward and reaches out for the mug. He pauses and lets his hand stop.
“Don't think,” Jess urges him. “Just do it. What's the worst that could happen?”
Hilary opens his mouth but stops himself before he explains the multiple scenarios that have just popped into his head.
Tea. He's going to make a cup of tea. He checks the water level in the kettle and flicks it on. He takes the mug from Jess and -
He can't remember. How is he supposed to function if he can't even
- and he takes a tea bag from the middle of the three containers, and a spoonful of sugar from the right hand one. A half empty bottle of milk is in the fridge on the other side of Jess, and a dollop of that goes in the mug as well.
The kettle whistles and turns itself off. Hilary pours the water, finds a spoon and stirs.
After a minute, he flicks the tea bag into the bin, and takes a sip from the mug.
And spits. “That is the most disgusting thing I have ever tasted.”
“Right!” Jess says brightly. “So we've learned something.”
Hilary stares at her. “What, that I should never have tried doing this in the first place? Matt's right, I didn't even know my own name until someone found my driving license to prove it to me.”
Jess' smile doesn't waver. “You're not a milk and one sugar man. Try again.”
She takes the mug from his hands and replaces it with another one from the cupboard. This one is white, with blue writing across the side that proclaims This brew has been compliancy checked.
The second attempt tastes even worse than the first.
The third mug is pink and declares that tea has been Crisis management since 1652!. Even the colour of the tea doesn't look right.
Their fourth attempt Hilary knows will go badly. It feels wrong to leave out the milk, but Jess encourages him to cover all the bases. It tastes truly vile, but at least it can then be converted into attempt number five with a new mug and an added splash of milk.
“Not sweet enough,” he says, pulling a face.
“You said one sugar was too sweet,” Jess points out. She tilts her head, considering. “Try a half?”
“Half,” Hilary echoes. “What kind of idiot would only put half a -”
She stares at him and raises her eyebrows a little.
The sixth mug (some kind of humanoid robot on the side and cybermen in faded letters) gets a splash of milk and a carefully measured half teaspoon of sugar.
He purrs into the mug.
“Finally,” Jess mutters, but she's smiling. She takes a swig from attempt number 4 and leans against the counter.
A few minutes later Matt appears, and swipes the yellow mug without saying anything.
A little while after that, Connor and Abby take attempts two and five respectively, and murmur their thanks to Hilary.
He frowns at them, then at the lone mug on the counter (number three: milky and sweet).
Jess smiles at him. “I'll go take this to Lester.”
Hilary eyes her. “Did you know what I was doing all along?”
“Only after the third go,” she grins at him, and disappears with what is apparently Lester's tea.
Hilary sips his tea, savouring the taste. It's already taken the edge off an encroaching headache – tea withdrawal, maybe? Can you get tea withdrawal? Clearly he's the tea-maker of the group. He frowns – he's not their dogsbody or anything, is he? He takes another sip of the glorious liquid in his cup.
No, he decides – he is just God's gift to tea making.
There's something missing, though.
He sets his mug down with exaggerated care and opens the cupboard again. There's a silver tub in there. He pulls it out without thinking and opens the lid. It's full of biscuits – flat ones that look like they contain raisins. He takes one out and nibbles it.
Now it's perfect.
Garibaldi, his mind supplies.
He looks up to see Connor grinning at him. “Like eating one for the first time?” he asks, reaching into the tin for a biscuit of his own. He bites into it, then his whole face lights up. “Lord Of The Rings.”
“No,” Abby and Matt say together.
“I just want to see his reactions!” Connor protests.
“I'm not a lab rat,” Hilary points out.
Connor deflates a little. “Just think of all the things you could experience for the first time all over again.”
Hilary holds up his tea and Garibaldi.
“Good point,” Connor allows.
Chapter 2: Two
Many thanks again to fredbassett for the beta!
Lester refuses Hilary's request to visit the shooting range.
He doesn't even let Hilary plead something resembling a case; nor does he react to the pout.
“Well, there's got to be something I can do to pass the time around here.” Hilary's pretty sure this is sulking. He doesn't care.
Lester sighs. “Cap... Mr Becker -”
“I've got a name, you know.”
Lester pinches the bridge of his nose. “Look. The doctors tell me that you remain mentally impaired. Tell me why I would let someone like that anywhere near automatic weaponry?”
Hilary opens his mouth.
“On second thought, don't.”
Hilary stares at the pink mug beside Lester's computer. Eventually Lester caves. It's a glorious sight.
“Tell Jess to give you access to your mission reports. Just yours.”
Hilary grins. “You're the best.”
Lester just looks pained, so Hilary decides to leave the office.
It's a relief not to be dragging around the IV pole any more, but Dr Thomas had decided he'd be better off without it for now. The clothes were brought out soon after that pronouncement, and he's wearing jeans and a red-checked shirt. They seem totally wrong, because if he's supposed to be a military captain, shouldn't he be in uniform?
It's one more thing to ask Jess. Which he does, seeing as she's sat at a massive computer terminal that make Hilary's eyes ache just trying to count the number of monitors.
She looks sympathetic, and hesitates before answering. “Technically you resigned.”
Jess purses her lips. “From the army, after the ARC was reopened. It's part-privatised now, and one of the mandates Burton introduced was no direct military involvement.” She shrugs, but whatever message that was supposed to convey is lost on Hilary.
He settles for: “Oh.”
Lines of text crop up on one of the monitors. Hilary finds himself drawn to the almost hypnotic movement even though he has genuinely no idea what any of it means. He suspects it may be something he doesn't understand as a general rule anyway. He's trying to work out if he's okay with that when Jess quietly clears her throat.
Hilary flinches, tearing his gaze away from the monitors. “Sorry?”
“Was there something you needed?” she asks gently.
Oh, right. This is a place of work. They're working. Hilary feels the tips of his ears start to burn. “I, er... Lester said to ask you for my mission reports. It might... help.”
“Oh!” Jess' face lights up and she whirls around to the mass of computers. She types furiously for a few seconds, then twists back around to look at Hilary. “Paper or digital copies?”
“Paper,” Hilary says automatically.
Jess smirks and does one final sweep over the keyboards. “Come on,” she announces. “I'll show you where your office is.”
He has an office? Cool.
His office is surprisingly cold, but apparently he had planned for this as there is a quite frankly ridiculous number of fleece jackets hanging up behind the door.
“The heating's iffy,” Jess offers by way of an explanation. “If you need anything, I think Connor's in his lab, it's just around the corner from here.”
“Thank you,” Hilary says.
Jess points at a spot behind Hilary's shoulder. “Print outs of your mission reports should appear any moment now,” she explains before ducking out and letting the door hiss closed behind her.
Hilary stares around the room. Whatever he'd been expecting on the way down here... this isn't it. The walls are bare aside from a solitary noticeboard with details of training exercises and armoury supplies spread across several small pieces of paper. The desk is impossibly tidy and – his heart falls just a little – there are no personal identifiers anywhere.
He'd at least been hoping for a photo of his elusive – and hopefully non-monstrous – family.
The printer beeps, and Hilary scoops the paper up before sitting down. The first page details something called a Pristichampsus running riot at the British Museum. He stares at the jargon, the words just familiar enough to make him feel like the meanings are on the tip of his tongue. His old self is particularly caustic about someone named Nick Cutter, who has a less than healthy respect for his orders, but is grudgingly neutral about a Dr Sarah Page.
The name makes him shiver. He stands up and crosses over to the door and snags a random fleece. It really is rather cold in here.
He shrugs on the jacket and tries to not feel depressed about the lack of personal effects, family – and what is a seriously Spartan working environment.
“You know, you can put things that aren't functional in your own office.”
A woman's voice flits across his thoughts; it almost sounds like she's laughing.
Sarah, his mind supplies.
Hilary looks back at the pile of reports. He feels strangely uncomfortable at the idea of reading any more. Like there's a pit at the bottom of his stomach and he...
He tells himself to get a grip. If there's anything really bad in the reports, he'll be fine because he's already lived through it once. He tells himself that a few more times as he makes himself sit back down and pick a random piece of paper.
Dr Sarah Page was killed attempting to locate Danny Quinn, Connor Temple and Abby Maitland in the future wasteland.
Hilary moves on instinct; he pulls out a bin from underneath the desk and dry heaves into it.
He waits, frozen over the bin, gripping it like the lifeline it apparently is.
He closes his eyes.
There's a lump in his eyes and for the first time he has zero desire to ever know the truth about his old self. No possessions, a family that made his colleagues look anywhere but his face, and the scant memory of a woman who's making a lump rise in his throat along with the after burn of not-quite vomiting.
It is of course, because his life seems to work like that (and part of him wonders if it was always like this, Sod's Law in action at all possible times), at this precise moment when his door bursts open.
“Hey! They told me you were hiding do...”
Hilary barely registers the voice, or the way it trails off mid-sentence, but he definitely notices the hands that appear on his shoulders and the instinctual feeling that someone is getting right into his -
He struggles out of the grip, pushes the bin forwards and into his assailant and gets as close as he can to the wall. Somewhere in between all of this, he opens his eyes.
Standing in front of him is a man with curly hair, wearing faded grey jeans and a blue button-down shirt, and holding the bin Hilary had pushed at him.
And he looks confused.
“Hilary?” the man asks. He sets the bin down carefully and holds his hands out, palms facing Hilary.
Hilary stares and tries to get his breathing under control.
“Panic attack, huh?” The man grins crookedly. “My bad, shouldn't have come barging in like that. You okay now?”
“I...” Hilary's throat is dry. “Who are you?”
But even as he asks, there are flashes of memories. A boy looming over him with a bucket in one hand, holding the other out to help him stand up. The same boy, now an adult, in a top hat and tails, pulling a face and shifting from one foot to the other. A man smiling at him, trying to reassure him?
“Giles,” Hilary says.
“Yeah.” Giles smiles – widely, more genuinely this time. “What was that, a flashback? Looked like a bad one. You wanna sit down, tell me what happened?”
“I...” Hilary steps closer to the chair, but doesn't sit down. “I don't really remember.”
“Okay,” Giles says reassuringly.
He doesn't get it. Hilary frowns. There's too much going on here; his head is starting to hurt again, worse this time, more intense and Gileshisbrother doesn't understand.
“I hit my head,” Hilary says slowly. “Earlier. Badly. I... don't really remember anything.”
Understanding dawns on Giles' face.
“And I thought you were freaks, or there was something wrong with me.” Hilary's babbling now, but he can't stop himself. “Nobody will tell me anything except I hunt dinosaurs and make tea and what kind of person doesn't even have a photo in their office and -” He looks up, slightly panicky. “Dinosaurs. Was I supposed to not say that?”
Giles' face is indecipherable. Then he smiles slightly. “Yeah, I know about that. It's okay.”
“Just keep breathing, yeah? That's it, nice and slow now.” Giles waits for him to calm down some more before he says: “There's nothing wrong with you, Hilary. Mum's got a bit of a rep with the soldiers, and I'm pretty sure everyone's still scarred from the Westminster anomaly, but it's nothing bad, okay?”
“What's the Westminster anomaly?”
Giles grins. “Dinosaurs in the seat of British politics. I sort of helped.” There's a sheepish look on his face, and when Hilary frowns, he sighs and continues. “I was on the verge of leaving dog poo in my ex-boss' office when someone ran down the corridor screaming about dinosaurs. Followed quickly by you. So I -”
“- sort of helped,” Hilary says. He doesn't remember any of that, but he knows without questioning it that Giles is telling the truth. It's good, he thinks, knowing that.
“Yeah,” Giles says. Then: “They really didn't tell you anything about the family?”
Hilary shakes his head.
“Okay, right.” Giles nudges past Hilary to sit down at the computer, and inputs IDs and passwords without hesitating.
Hilary frowns, but before he can ask anything, Giles explains: “You've used the same password for everything since secondary school. Sadly, not that hard to crack.”
“Oh.” It's probably a good thing, really, considering the current circumstances.
“Anyway,” Giles turns the monitor and angles it so Hilary can see the screen better. “Hilary Becker, this is your life!”
Hilary frowns again, but peers at the screen. It's full of small photographs, and he points at the first one. “Start at the beginning?”
Giles' smile widens, and he begins introducing Hilary to a family he only vaguely remembers.
“Are you all right?” Hilary asks as Giles pushes open the door to the break room.
“I'm fine,” Giles replies, glancing around the room. “But shouldn't that be my line?”
Hilary shrugs. “I'm fine? My head hurts.”
“Family will do that,” says Giles, striding over to the kettle and filling it up with water. “Lots of history. Still, you should be able to pick us all out of a line up now.” There's a teasing note to his tone and a sense of warm familiarity washes over Hilary.
“I can make the tea,” he offers, watching Giles pull two mugs from the cupboard.
“You?” Giles snorts. “I am a tea-making god. I'm making it.”
Hilary snorts, but doesn't try to get involved in his brother's tea making process. Mid-boil, the door opens, and Matt comes in. He looks at Hilary and raises his eyebrows at Giles, but doesn't say anything.
Giles does. “Mr Anderson,” he drawls, drawing out the first word.
Matt's expression remains blank. “Jess told me you were here.”
“Miss Parker is highly efficient like that,” Giles replies. Hilary frowns at the tone he's taken, but before he can think to say anything, Giles continues: “Shame she's the only one, really.”
“What -” Matt begins before he's cut off.
“I mean, maybe I'm just a lowly middle management type, but if one of my colleagues got thumped on the head hard enough all his memories literally escaped him, I'd do the decent thing and at least notify his family, rather than keeping him cooped up in a giant underground lab most people don't even know exists.” Giles hands Hilary a mug of tea he hadn't even realised had been brewed, and turns back to look expectantly at Matt.
“This isn't exactly your run of the mill office job.” Matt says. He shifts like he's about to fold his arms but then thinks better of it. His expression still hasn't really altered.
That could get really irritating, Hilary thinks absently.
“Oh, please,” Giles scoffs. “Like that's an excuse.” He steps towards Matt, planting himself in the middle of them all.
Hilary holds his tea to his chest, an odd feeling fluttering through him. “It's all right, Giles,” he says quietly.
“No. It's not.”
He's being protective.
Hilary sips his tea and peers over Giles' shoulder at Matt. Advantage – Becker.
Matt sighs. “Look, I'm sorry, but we've still got a job to do.”
“He has amnesia!” Giles snaps. “That kind of thing merits some attention! Or was it just too much for any of you to see him as an actual human being instead of a robot with a gun?”
“It's not that -” Matt begins, but Giles cuts him off again.
“It's not even about clearance – I signed the Official Secrets Act months before you ever showed up. I'm only here now because Hilary was supposed to meet me for lunch and never showed, or called to cancel.”
Something flickers on Matt's face. “His phone's in his locker.”
“Which you could have used to – oh, I don't know, phone a family member.” Giles' voice has gone low and quiet.
“I'm sorry,” Matt says thickly. “Is that what you want to hear?”
Giles stares at him for a long moment. “It's a start.”
Matt nods to them both curtly. “I'm sorry, Becker,” he repeats, and then turns on his heel.
Giles watches him go and then turns to Hilary. “And this is why people don't like me.”
“I don't know,” Hilary says mildly, “I'm warming up to you.”
Giles gives him a blinding smile.
Chapter 3: Three
It's early evening when the shit really hits the fan. Hilary is back in the medical wing – with Giles – while Dr Thomas runs an assortment of tests, when the alarm goes off.
It rips through the room, louder than anything Hilary's heard to date. It's impossible to think, but he moves on instinct, running out of the room and through various corridors, unaware of everything but the pressing need to act until he reaches the main operations room, where Jess is handing out little black boxes.
Hilary comes to an abrupt halt – not even a little bit out of breath – and watches as Matt, Connor and Abby take a complement of soldiers through a side door and out of sight.
The alarm stops as suddenly as it had started, and Hilary belatedly realises someone is breathing heavily behind him.
Giles is bent almost double, trying to catch his breath. “Give a bloke some bloody warning, why don't you,” he wheezes.
“Becker?” Jess asks. “What are you doing up here?”
“The alert went off,” Hilary says faintly.
“It wasn't calling you,” Jess says gently. “Not this time.” She turns away from him back to her monitors.
Hilary tugs at his clothing, uncomfortable in how wrong it feels to be wearing civvies instead of a uniform, to not have the comforting weight of the black box against his hip.
Giles says something but he ignores him and moves to stand behind Jess. To her credit she doesn't flinch, but it's clear from the way her muscles clench that she's not wholly comfortable with him there.
A route map pops up on one of the monitors. The road names mean nothing to Hilary, but Giles sucks in breath through his teeth.
“That's going to be a PR nightmare,” he mutters.
“Captain, Mr Becker.” Lester's voice cuts across the room. “What the hell do you both think you're doing in here?”
“I...” Hilary half turns from the monitors but his eyes stay fixed on the flow of data.
“I followed him,” Giles says unhelpfully.
Lester sighs loudly. “The two of you, my office – now.”
Hilary doesn't move. He glances over and sees Giles is staying put. He's even leaning in towards Jess, speaking softly. “You need to call ahead. Don't say you're anything to do with the civil service or government, they'll hang up without a second thought.”
Hilary frowns. “You know where they're going.” It isn't a question.
Giles glances up at him, then at a spot behind his right shoulder which Hilary realises is where Lester is now hovering. “The buildings are owned by a shell company. I know the names from when I was working press for the Lib Dems,” he explains. “I don't know the specifics, but I think I remember the right names to drop.”
Lester's eyes narrow for a split second. Then he glances at Jess, who shakes her head. “I can't find any contact details through the usual channels,” she tells him.
Hilary glances back at the monitors. There are grainy CCTV images on one screen, and flickers of radio static coming out of the speakers.
“Clear the building, I repeat – clear the building! Those things are everywhere!”
Another explosion propels Becker face forward onto a mound of rubble and broken glass. He rolls over and checks himself for lacerations before climbing to his feet and
It's Giles. He sounds – and looks – worried. “You with me?”
“I...” Hilary shakes his head. He realises he's gripping the back of Jess' seat. “I'm fine. I just -”
“Police are locking down the perimeter,” Jess reports, typing at speed. “But it looks like -”
“We've got civilians still trapped!”
Becker curses long and loud. “Everyone retreat!” he snaps into his radio. Civilians or not, this is a disaster.
“Help me!” The sobbing call is faint, but Becker finds himself spinning on his heel, already moving
“There's a creature incursion!” Jess stares at one of the CCTV feeds before turning to another monitor. “Matt, be on guard!”
“Hook me up.” Giles points to a radio headset. “We don't have time to be subtle.”
She hesitates for a second, just long enough for Lester to sigh. “Do it,” he says, transfixed on the grainy pictures of the creature.
“Who does Matt have with him?” Giles asks.
“Team of six headed by Sergeant Emerson,” Jess says. She hands Giles a headset and points him to a keypad.
Giles takes a deep breath and grins at nobody in particular. “Mr Chakrabarti? This is Giles Becker, I'm an acquaintance of Anna Parr. Yes, that's right. You've got something going on in one of your warehouses, right? Listen carefully; this is what's going to happen.”
A future predator clambers out of a second-floor window. Becker freezes, but it's too late. The creature's sensed his body heat, and it's leaping across rubble and ruin, closer and closer
It hurts. Ithurtsithurtsithurts. Hilary's head is breaking apart with the onslaught of memories. It's difficult to concentrate and the monitors are wailing.
“Matt, how long have I got?”
“How does twenty seconds sound?”
“Not the greatest news I've heard all day.”
“All right, well, I'll give you thirty.”
Lester squeezes Hilary's shoulder, his fingers digging in painfully. It's enough to snap him back into the room. “Now is not the time to lose your head, Captain,” he murmurs, his gaze flickering between him, Jess and Giles.
He's right. Hilary forces himself to take several deep breaths. He focuses on a single monitor until it comes into focus. It's the CCTV he's staring at, flashes of a creature and even briefer glimpses of the ARC team, trying but failing to contain it.
He doesn't question the knowledge, or the instinct to act on it. “Headset,” he says, tapping Jess lightly on her shoulder. She frowns up at him, but hands him a radio. “Emerson, this is Becker. Confirm number of creatures through the anomaly.”
“Just the – just the one, sir.”
“You need to herd it. The more it runs around in circles the angrier it's going to get.” Hilary squints at blueprints on the monitor adjacent to the CCTV feeds. “Ground floor, south-west of your current position. There's a hallway. Get it in there and tranq it.”
It's Abby who replies. “You were freaking out thirty seconds ago. Are you sure -”
“Just do it,” Becker orders.
It's immensely gratifying to see the appropriate dots moving to obey his orders alongside visual confirmation of shadowy figures moving around on CCTV.
Giles spares a split second in his harassed phone call to glance at Hilary.
Hilary's shaking. He can feel himself trembling with shock, adrenaline and the return of at least part of his memory. But the tactics, the planning... he knows this. This is what he does. Whatever Giles sees in his expression is enough, and he turns his full attention back to the phone call.
“I've got it!... It's not going down!”
“Shoot it again,” Becker shouts down the radio.
A few tense seconds later, and then: “It's down!”
“Get it back through the anomaly,” Becker directs.
“Becker.” It's Abby again, though she sounds amused this time. “It's okay, we can take it from here.”
Becker forces himself to let to of Jess' chair. Lester says something that he ignores. Lester rolls his eyes and pushes him onto a spare computer chair, but he immediately swaps positions with Giles, who hands him his radio without comment.
Giles takes one look at Becker and then pushes his head down between his knees. “Keep breathing,” he says, sounding unreasonably cheerful.
Hilary Becker leaned back in the armchair and wallowed. It was an unusual feeling, but one he had decided he was more than entitled to.
He and Giles had high-tailed it up the M1 as soon as Doctor Thomas had cleared him for R&R; they'd made good enough time for Mum to make it dinner for four. Any doubt Becker had had about not being able to connect to his parents had dissipated the instant Dad had opened the door, pipe in one hand, a newspaper tucked under his arm, eyeballed his sons and said: “I am overcome with honour and pride; my two boys and it's neither of your birthdays.”
Becker had laughed, pulled his dad in for a hug, and gone in search of the kettle, leaving Dad and Giles to stare dumbly in his wake.
“Hilary! Elspeth's here!” Giles yelled, his voice damaging Becker's calm.
Becker looked longingly at the battered copy of Dune resting on the arm of the chair and then pushed himself upright. He shuffled into the hallway just in time for his sister, with Penny in her arms, to burst through the door.
“Hello!” Elspeth called out, ruthlessly kicking aside one of Giles' shoes. “We're here!” She thrust Penny into Becker's arms. “Here Penny, say hello to Uncle Hilary!”
Becker quickly got hold of the squirming child that was his niece and tried to not look as flustered as he felt. “Hi Pen.”
Penny offered him a beaming smile and the world felt instantly wonderful again.
“Remember,” Giles whispered in his ear, as a vaguely familiar man trampled through the front door carrying a truly enormous nappy bag. “That's Peter, El's husband.”
Becker nodded and adjusted his grip on Penny. “Peter, it's good to see you,” he said holding his hand out.
Then his mother nimbly leant across and smacked Giles around the back of the head.
Becker laughed. Had Giles seriously expected him to forget the masses of wedding photos he'd shown him? “Sorry about that, Pat.”
Giles shot him a dirty look, but Pat just looked amused.
“I'm glad you're okay,” he said seriously – and not a little awkwardly.
“Me too,” Becker admitted.
Elspeth harrumphed. “I thought security was supposed to be boring and injury-free. Mind you, that's what you get for living in London,” she said with a knowing look at Pat. “Bloody dangerous place.”
Becker was pretty sure she didn't know the half of it.