Time passed, and Cole was not in a good mood.
All trace of Griffin O'Conner had vanished. The school the boy had attended were none the wiser, and his parents had the same problem. Even when Cole had killed the boy's mother, her husband had not been forthcoming. The guards at the prison where O'Conner had been 'interrogated' had been unable to shed any light on the boy's escape, and had been executed for incompetence.
Cole ran over his theories in his mind – O'Conner had obviously had an accomplice who broke him out of prison, possibly a CIA agent. The computer probe had been from a known CIA cell, and the Americans were tenacious bastards. The Supreme Pope was on his back most days, throwing tantrums when little progress had been made, and giving no reason for his insistence and panic over O'Conner, and the ravings that any person in the world named Griffin should be located and executed.
Cole sighed, then glanced over to the computer terminal in Torchwood's operations base. Nero was sitting there, reviewing screenshots from the CCTV cameras spread through the city and the various ways out of the country. The problem with the cameras was that their programme flagged any image that contained a person who looked a bit like O'Conner, so they had to spend most of the day eliminating the false identifications. Which happened to be all of them.
A week had passed, and Griffin was now able to move on his own. All the tubes had been removed, and the catheter had been quite painful. James had found him a t-shirt, some shorts and a mirror, which had given him a bit of a shock.
His face was not as he remembered it. His hair was starting to get long again, but his face was scarred, the pale lines cutting across his cheeks, eyes and forehead. And his eyes… one was its normal pale blue colour, but the other was a milky orb, with no pupil and half a red iris. And he was blind in it as well.
"It was the drugs they used on you," James had said, uncomfortably, when Griffin glanced at him.
The signs of the torture manifested in other ways – nightmares, a limp, a sharp pain whenever he gripped too hard with his right hand, a slight corruption in his accent. Griffin guessed he could get used to them, but he wondered what his incarceration meant – for some reason, he was considered a criminal, and that meant that if he ever showed his face in public again, it would probably be cut off by the authorities after years of torture.
Then there was the question of this James Griffiths character. He was maybe three years older than Griffin, and seemed a nice enough guy. But even the nicest of faces could hide the most sinister of agendas. But for the moment, James was being very accommodating and Griffin may as well take advantage of that.
James had also allowed Griffin out of the small room where the medical equipment had been, and apparently the door had never been locked. James seemed to be living in a large underground structure, which was a maze of corridors, spiral staircases and large platforms. James had explained that it was an abandoned train station from London's underground network, the large tunnels connecting to other abandoned stations. James was only using a small part of the station as his base – he had converted offices into sleeping quarters, a kitchen, storage rooms and seemed to have transformed the lower platform into a private gymnasium for some unknown reason. There were also fully functional toilets and shower facilities.
Well, it was unknown until James and Griffin sat down on oil drums to eat about a month after James had rescued Griffin from the prison.
James was a surprisingly good cook, and his sausages were to die for. Sausages were what they were eating, sitting in silence on sealed oil drums. Griffin sat hunched over his army-issue mess tin, a square saucepan-like thing that could be cooked in and eaten out of, his bare feet resting flat on the concrete floor, devouring the meat with relish. Then James spoke.
"You seem to be recovering well," he said.
"So?" Griffin said through a mouthful of Pork, glancing up with his good eye.
"Some time ago I mentioned I had a proposition," James said, sipping some water from a bottle by his feet.
Griffin glanced up, narrowing his eyes, "And?" he said.
"And here it is," James sat back, putting his mess tin on the oil drum serving as a table.
"I'm doing some work with the ICG. They are, or were, an American intelligence agency dedicated to ensuring America's technological superiority. Although they've been officially disbanded, they're still around, trying to resist the Supreme Pope's forces."
"I saw that on the news," Griffin said, "Subversive infidels, they said."
"Propaganda," James dismissed it, "The thing about religion is that its followers often have very negative attitudes to people who disagree with them. Look at the Cathars."
"Sorry," James said, smiling as if he'd just proved a point, "They're not on the official history syllabus. They were a religious sect from several hundred years ago with slightly different views to the Catholic Church. So the Church, in the spirit of peace and loving thy neighbour, wiped them out. The words which spring to mind are 'holocaust' and 'genocide'. But that's not the point."
"So what is the point?"
"The point is," James said, "What would the world be like if that sort of thing didn't happen? Where people were free to have their own opinions?"
Griffin laughed sarcastically, "A fucking brilliant one. But you've missed something – if you want to bring down the Paladins, than you're fucking mental."
"Who said anything about bringing down the paladins?"
"It's bloody obvious," Griffin snapped, "All that talk of 'what would the world be like without them'. And I'm telling you, it can't be done."
"And why not?" James was getting defensive.
"The paladins have loads of support throughout the world," Griffin said, "nutters who think there's some big beardy man up there watching over us. People who inform on any kind of non-conformity."
"That's only because they don't know what's really going on," James said acidly, "and if they did, they'd probably be horrified."
He leaned forward, cutting off Griffin's next sarcastic retort, "You're a city boy. Tell me – have you ever left London, or even the suburb where you were born?"
Griffin paused, "No," he admitted.
"Your parents were probably brought here from wherever because they were intelligent and had the aptitude to work in the Pope's research facilities. Yes?"
"Yeah…" Griffin said, growing uncertain.
"Have you ever asked yourself what happened to those who weren't seen as part of the Pope's glorious Christendom?"
Griffin didn't speak. James pulled a stack of files out from a case lying next to the oil drums.
"I think you should read these."
Griffin read the files.
They consisted of testimonies from various people 'rescued' from detention centres across the world using the CIA's old connections. Amongst these was the story of Marcus, a former priest who had been close to the Supreme Pope. One night, he was attacked in his lodgings and taken to a detention camp in Siberia, where he was interrogated. Apparently he had been seen speaking to a known opponent of the Pope. He had no idea what they were talking about,
At the camp he saw many people he recognised. Priests, government officials, influential businessmen – all united in the concentration camp as people whom the Pope was concerned about, in all his paranoid schizophrenic glory. All the inmates had received regular humiliation and beatings whilst being forced to work building nuclear weapons and atomic power sources, with highly unstable Uranium and enriched Plutonium. A footnote to the file said that Marcus had died shortly after his rescue, of pneumonia and radiation poisoning.
There was also a story recounted by Antonio, a foreman on a slave-gang mining in the Mexican highlands, of how he was arrested for complaining about working conditions. He was held and tortured for three weeks, and will never be able to walk again. He remarked on how the interrogators had been very skilled; on how they'd kept him alive, but in excruciating pain for weeks. Griffin stopped reading as Antonio had begun to describe the methods used, as they evoked painful memories.
But it was Maria's story that shocked him the most, tears pricking in his eyes as he read:
'My husband was close to the Pope. We had just returned from the hospital after having our third child when they came for us. I was separated from my husband and the children and left in a cell for two days, but not allowed to sleep. I was exhausted, starving, confused, disorientated. Then I was interrogated – questions I couldn't answer because I didn't know the answers. Then I began to realise they weren't interested in the truth, just in getting me to say what they wanted. They told me that if I made a statement, my children could go free. So I did. I was left alone again, no food, no toilet, filthy, exhausted. Then the door opened and they brought my children in. And… and then he came in too. The Supreme Pope. I couldn't believe it. I thought I'd gone mad. Then the guards forced my children to their knees… and… and he shot them. In turn. In the head. He was… smiling… I'm sorry, I can't go on…'
Griffin looked up, seeing that James was watching him.
"Terrible, isn't it?" James said quietly. Griffin nodded, then James continued, "And that's just the tip of the iceberg. The ICG supplied me with a load of communications intercepts and captured documents about the invasion of America, policy on the slave-fields of Africa, destruction of heretical artefacts and the war in the Middle-East."
"Why are you doing this?" Griffin asked.
"Trying to bring down the Paladins?"
"Ah," James sighed, "I was brought up in America, which is quite different to England. The population was split between south and north – the southerners welcomed the Supreme Pope's administration, and began lobbying the White House to surrender control to him. The politicians, intelligence agencies, and northerners were against it. Therefore, the Pope supplied arms to the south and supported an uprising against the north with troops from Europe. The president, congress and senate were executed, and America became part of Christendom, and used to launch invasions of Canada, Mexico and South America. However, the intelligence services survived and, being patriotic, or perhaps slightly mad, set up a resistance movement. Because my dad got involved, I got involved as well. They sent me over here to try and find a way to bring down the Pope."
Griffin chewed on a sausage, then asked, "But why do you need me?"
"Because of the Red List," James said, "I don't know why you're on it – something to do with your DNA, maybe. But whatever it is, you were the only person on the list who is still alive. It was believed that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – a shadowy group within the Vatican – was planning your assassination, so we had to move fast."
Griffin sighed. This was rather a lot for him to take in.
"I can train you up," James said, "Show you how to use weapons, martial arts."
"What if I say no?"
"I have orders to force you to say yes, and I'd rather not do that," James replied evenly, then removed a small piece of paper from his pocket and handed it to Griffin. It was a communications intercept from a few days ago.
Griffin read it, then looked up.