by J. Ferguson a.k.a. Timeless A-Peel
Disclaimer: I don't own The New Avengers, nor the characters of Mike Gambit, Purdey, and John Steed. Sadly. They're the property of The Avengers (Film and TV) Enterprises. This story is for entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement intended
Timeline: First in a series. Takes place in late December, 1975, a full four months before the start of the series in April, 1976. It is strongly recommended that you go back and read the previous story in the arc, Lost Boys. I know I say this every time, but in this case there really are quite a few connections between the events of that fic and this one in terms of character interaction, so if you haven't read it, or haven't read it in awhile, it probably won't hurt to give it a read to refresh your memory. Those interested in the rest of the series are, of course, invited to read the subsequent stories in the arc, Aftermath, Dance With Me, The Anniversary, Merry Christmas, Mr. Gambit, Brazil, and Life on Mars.
For more information about the series, please see my profile.
Author's Note: Yes, finally a new story in my arc series. It's been four months since I wrapped up Life on Mars, and the reason it's taken that long for me to post more is that, quite simply, I've had to write it (and a few other stories which have since popped up here). Up until now, most of the stories I've been posting have been finished for quite some time, and thus I only had to edit and do rewrites before posting them. It was inevitable that I'd eventually run out of pre-finished arc stories before I'd finished the latest piece, and it's taken this long to get to that point.
Now, as I've stated above, this is actually meant to be story number one in the series, which may seem a bit odd since numbers two through seven have already been posted. When I first started writing TNA stories, I didn't have any sort of series plan in mind, but when I came up with all the ideas I wanted to write and worked out a timeline of stories, I decided to write them in a random order depending on which one I felt like writing at the time. That meant I only recently got around to this one, which I chose to write first rather than a Life on Mars follow-up. There are further stories that I have planned that will be set post-Life on Mars, definitely, but I thought it would be better to fill in the last little gap before continuing on from there. Anyway, this just makes it a bit like a prequel.
Because this is another long story, I'll probably be going back to longer chapters updated fortnightly. Hope everyone enjoys.
Arthur Stanbury checked his watch as he hurried along the quiet London sidestreet. It was indecently early by most sane people's standards, but Stanbury wasn't most people—not today, at any rate. He had an early meeting before work this morning. His boss had insisted that he be present, although Arthur wasn't entirely certain why. He was a junior member of the company at best. There was no real reason he needed to be there. But his boss was a bit of a sadist, and he certainly wasn't fond of Stanbury, so this was probably his way of making the clerk's life miserable. It was working, too. Stanbury had, against the orders of his boss, slept through his alarm, and now even as he broke into a run, he knew he was going to be late. Not unless the distance between his current location and his place of work magically shrunk in the next five minutes.
Or I took a shortcut. Arthur noticed the alley as he hurried by, paused in spite of himself, and backtracked. He passed this particular alleyway every day, twice a day, on his commute to and from the office. There was chain roped across it at either end, with a sign hanging from the middle. 'No Trespassing.' Arthur was never entirely certain why the company that owned the building was so keen to keep people out. By law they weren't allowed to obstruct it entirely, but at the same time, all Arthur could see down the corridor were the usual suspects—dumpsters, cardboard boxes, other bits and pieces of rubbish. Not exactly national security. But Arthur was a law-abiding fellow, and he obeyed signs. Usually. But usually he wasn't late, wasn't looking forward to a tongue-lashing by his boss. Surely this once it would be all right to trespass on the territory of a bunch of cardboard boxes. After all, he wasn't going to do any harm. And it was so early that there wasn't likely to be anyone around to catch him. If he was caught, he'd explain the predicament as quickly as possible. No one could really be angry at a chap for trying to make it to work on time. Time was of the essence. Arthur made his decision, stepped over the chain, and hurried off down the alley.
He hadn't gotten far before he heard some sort of strange thrumming sound. He hadn't been able to hear it on the sidewalk, but the farther he went, the louder it got, magnified as it bounced between the two brick walls. It sounded like some sort of machine, electronic perhaps. Echoing all around him, it was difficult to discern the source, but Stanbury assumed it was coming from the company building, the one which had put the 'No Trespassing' signs up to begin with. They were probably into electronics, or computers, or something. Maybe it was the furnace down in the boiler room. Arthur didn't really care. All he wanted was to make it to work on time. He quickened his pace. The sound got louder with each step, then suddenly stopped. A soft burst of noise exploded from inside the building. Arthur only barely heard it. A second later he stopped going forward, and started going down. He collapsed face-first onto the ground with little grace, whole body limp, and lay there, unmoving. The alley was quiet now, but Arthur was in no condition to notice. His lateness was the least of his problems.
He was dead.
If Arthur Stanbury had been alive, he would likely have been interested to know that, months earlier, far off in the English countryside, another man, Toby Emerson, had also been trespassing, although for much different reasons than Arthur. He was a nature walker, and in his quest for new routes with which to indulge in his hobby, he had chosen grounds of a rambling old estate, one that came complete with extensive grounds, none of which the owner seemed interested in using. Emerson saw this as a shocking waste, and so, despite the signs clearly posted on the property line indicating that he was not welcome, he set about conquering the various hills a far enough distance from the manor house itself to avoid detection. It worked very well—Toby got his walk, and no one was the wiser. At least until the pulsing sound. It rolled out from the house and over the hills, rippling the grass as it went. Toby stopped to watch the strange effect. It wasn't the wind—there wasn't even a slight breeze in the trees. And yet the grass folded down in the wake of the noise, and, when it arrived at Toby, he folded, too, like a ragdoll.
Beyond the invisible barrier that separated the estate grounds from the rest of the world, birds sang, completely oblivious to the loss of one of their greatest admirers.