Chapter 1

Chapter 1

March 21

Friston Forest

11:26:13am

"Professor!" Connor's voice cut through the trees, a little too loud and very uncertain, "Professor… Nick! This is something you really need to see!"

Nick exchanged a look with Stephen, frowning slightly at the uncertainty in Connor's voice. They both scooped up their gear and headed into the woods. At another hesitant call from Connor, Stephen broke into a jog. Nick picked up the pace, walking faster, struggling with his maps and kit.

"Cutter…" now it was Stephen's turn to sound utterly dubious.

Nick broke through the trees, coming to a halt beside the other two men, and blinked, "Its gold," he said flatly.

"Yes, it is," Stephen answered, not taking his eyes off the shimmering anomaly.

"Should it be gold?" Nick turned to Connor to answer this.

Connor shook his head helplessly, shaggy hair falling into his eyes, "I have no idea."

"Pretty, though," Abby's voice made them all jump.

"Yeah, in a way."

"Ladies, gentlemen," Lester's disgruntled voice came from behind, "Whether the thing is pretty or not is really not a matter up for debate. We need to establish that nothing has come through to this side," as Nick opened his mouth to speak, he sighed and continued, "And send someone through to gather vital data, etc, etc… yes, Professor, I know."

An imperious gesture from Lester made Captain Ryan nod abruptly and turn away. As he turned, he rolled his eyes at his men, making Lyle turn a snigger into a cough. He hefted his weapon in his hands, taking long, striding steps across the clearing to the rest of the Special Forces unit. Ryan waited until he had the attention of every man.

"Set up a perimeter around the anomaly," the Captain cast an uneasy eye at it, "Double the rearguard, two extra on either side."

Knowing that his men would do as he asked, Ryan turned his back on them and the gold anomaly and walked over to where Nick, Stephen and, inexplicably, Connor were gearing up. He frowned a little. His checked emotions were outdone by Abby's waving arms and yelled words.

"Are you bloody mad, Connor?!" she gesticulated wildly at his gear, "You don't go through the anomalies!"

Connor studiously ignored her, wincing slightly as her voice rose to a crescendo. He scooped up his compass, tucking it into his pocket, before bending down and hauling his backpack onto his shoulders. Nick and Stephen did the same, smiling back as Connor shot them a wide grin. Abby threw up her hands in defeat and walked away. Ryan raised an eyebrow after her retreating back.

"Sure you want to do this?" he asked calmly, gun held carefully across his chest.

Nick frowned at him, "You ask every time, Ryan. Have we ever not wanted to do this?"

Ryan snorted, "No. But under the circumstances, I think I should go through first."

"What?!" Connor looked incredibly put out.

Ryan looked at him, "Special Forces go in first, its protocol."

Stephen gave him a cheeky grin that lit up his eyes, "When we let you."

Ryan rolled his eyes, gesturing to the anomaly, "Its gold, Stephen."

"Yep."

He turned to Nick, "You don't know what that means."

"Nope."

"So I should go first."

"We know the areas on the other side of the anomaly," Nick argued, "We go first."

Ryan sighed, "Fine. But I am coming through right behind you," he slid a magazine home in his gun with a dull clunk, "And I will not hesitate to shoot anything that tries to kill me. I don't care what it is."

Nick flipped an impatient hand at him, making Ryan grit his teeth. Nick, Connor and Stephen moved past the soldier and lined up in front of the gold, shimmering anomaly. Connor was practically vibrating on the spot, shooting both Nick and Stephen wide, excited grins.

Ryan sighed, "Alright. Let's do this."

"Don't sound so enthusiastic," Stephen teased.

"It's gold," Ryan gestured with his gun.

"Yep," he replied.

Lester cut in impatiently, "And it's pretty," he raised an eyebrow, "I believe we've had this conversation before. I'm getting the most awful sense of déjà vu."

Lester gestured to the anomaly before continuing, "You have a go," an elegant hand rolled dismissively through the air, "Or whatever it is you military types say. Get out of my sight," he then turned away and stalked back to the Home Office's cars.

Ryan barely resisted the urge to roll his eyes at Lester's retreating back. Connor showed no such restraint and finished his eye roll with poked tongue. Ryan had to turn away to hide his smile. Nick poked Connor in the side, berating him, but the effect was lessened by the mirth in his eyes. Stephen's shoulders were shaking with barely suppressed laughter.

Nick cleared his throat, "Right then," he looked back at the anomaly, "Shall we?"

Stephen nodded, drawing his handgun, "Me first."

Ryan frowned at that but said nothing. He simply hefted his gun higher on his chest and watched. Stephen took a breath, let it out and stepped through. Nick hefted his pack and gestured to Connor. Connor's grin grew impossibly wider, and he followed Stephen through. Nick turned back to Ryan and gave him a nod, then headed through the anomaly.

Ryan heaved a sigh, still not liking the look of the gold anomaly. He took a few steps towards it, resisting the urge to scrunch his eyes shut and break into a jog. If Temple could walk through the damn thing eyes open and steady then so could he, damn it. He refused to admit, that as he got closer to the anomaly he clutched his weapon a little tighter to his chest. One step away from the anomaly, Ryan paused.

That was the biggest mistake Captain Tom Ryan ever made.

"The fuck?!"

The anomaly shimmered…

Ryan swore again…

The anomaly flickered…

Ryan threw himself at it…

Just as it disappeared into nothing.

Ryan landed on the ground with a pained grunt, "Christ…"

He rolled onto his back, gun up, and groaned, "Ah hell…"

Staring at him with undisguised shock and barely disguised humour, were most of his men. Except for Lyle and Ditzy, they didn't bother to disguise either their shock or their humour. There was also Lester. And all the Home Office staff. Ryan let his head thump back down onto the dirt. He'd missed it. He'd let the anomaly go. He'd failed. And now Cutter, Temple and Hart were stuck in the past.