Just Another Normal Day
It was just another normal day in the life of Ros Myers, Section Chief of Section D, MI-5. So that meant that she was running at full speed, chasing an Al-Qaeda terrorist just outside a little village near London, with Lucas and Jo on her heels.
This particular man, whom they believed to be the leader of a terror cell that was planning an attack on London (as Al-Qaeda tended to try every now and then) had taken to hiding in this small village when they had discovered his hide-out in the capital a week ago. It had taken six days of working around the clock and rattling more cages than Ros cared to count before they had located his new hiding place. So there was no way she was letting him get away from them a second time. There was only so much failure she could cope with and Harry's temper could take.
'Hurry up, he's getting away!' came Jo's voice, slightly out of breath.
I know. Ros wondered why her younger colleague always liked to point out the obvious, although, in this case, she had to admit that Jo was right. She had no idea when Al-Qaeda had discovered the benefits of regular work-outs, but she sincerely regretted that they had. So she doubled her efforts, increasing her speed until she was running as fast as her suspect. A quick glance over her shoulder learned that her two colleagues were following her example.
Their man was now headed for the small piece of forest bordering the village. 'Shit!' Ros cursed under her breath. Chasing him in the woods might prove to be quite difficult, but the way things were looking now they weren't going to catch him anytime fast. So unless he tripped they were in for a forest visit.
This was just one of those days when everything went wrong. When she had left her flat that morning it had been raining, hard, so she ended up in a traffic jam of mythical proportions. Once arrived at Thames House she had been confronted with Harry Pearce's legendary bad temper. He had been moody and grumpy for weeks now, but that morning's shouting had been ten times worse. Fortunately for her Ben and Jo had found the current address of their suspect before it could get too bad, after which she had taken Jo and Lucas with her to arrest him. Foolishly she had led herself to believe that she could easily handle one single man without any help from the cavalry. So when he had knocked her against a doorpost, hit Lucas on the head with a frying pan and had made Jo trip over a pile of shoes, she was cursing her own stupidity and pride as well as that bloody man's cleverness.
'Harry, I need the cavalry here, NOW!' she yelled into the small microphone hidden away in her jacket.
'They are only five minutes away, Ros,' came Malcolm's voice into her earpiece.
'We don't have five minutes, Malcolm!' she shouted angrily. The terrifying effect was somewhat lessened by her panting. 'He's making for the woods. We're bloody losing him!' And that was one thing she could not stand for. Upon her reinstatement in Section D only weeks ago she had promised herself that she would make no more mistakes from now on. It would appear that was a promise she would end up breaking today.
'Five minutes, Ros,' Malcolm repeated calmly. How he could keep that calm was entirely beyond her, but as it was, it infuriated her only further.
'Well, then you tell them to make it two,' she hissed.
'Ros, no heroics, you hear me?' Harry's voice said in her left ear. He sounded a little worried.
Ros gave a clipped 'Yeah' in reply, which they both knew meant exactly the opposite. It had become something of a ritual for them. Harry had become idiotically protective of her since her latest try at heroism, which had led to her latest near-death experience. So since then, every time she found herself in a potential dangerous situation he would tell her not to try and be the hero and she would tell him that she wouldn't. But if trying to be the hero was what it took to get this moron, then that was what she would do and they both knew it.
Lucas risked firing a shot at their man's back, but he missed by at least a meter. It was too hard to aim properly when both hunter and hunted were running at neck breaking speed. He fired a second bullet, which embedded itself in a nearby tree, while the terrorist quickly bolted into the woods.
'He's in the forest now,' Ros reported to the Grid. 'Where the hell is the back-up?'
'Four minutes,' Malcolm told her.
'Not good enough,' she said. She ignored her burning lungs and the cramps in her legs and tried to increase her speed a little further. She kept her eyes firmly on the back of their terrorist, or rather, the leader of the terrorists. This was one of those men that commanded others to do the dirty work of blowing themselves and the people around them sky-high, while he made himself comfortable with a book by the fire, although it would seem that this one had also spent considerable time at the nearest sports centre. This one was also a coward. Ros didn't think it would take much effort to get the information they wanted from him, but for that they had to catch him first.
She decided that they weren't going to catch him chasing him like this anytime soon. He obviously wasn't tired of running and chances were that he had someone with a car waiting for him on the other end of the forest. He was after all a high-ranking Al-Qaeda operative. He would have contacts and he would be a fool if he hadn't contacted one of those. And she had decided that she was not going to lose him again.
No, the only way they could get him was bluff. If she could just keep him talking until the back-up arrived, then they would finally have him. 'You're surrounded, Samir!' she yelled after him.
He half-tripped, but recovered soon enough. 'You're lying!' he shouted.
Ros was about to pretend to give some fake order to not-existent gunmen when they came into a clearing and they all skidded to an immediate stop…
It was just another normal day in the life of Merlin, the secret save-the-day-behind-the-scenes-warlock of Camelot. So that meant he found himself sitting on a horse with a painful bottom, while Arthur was hunting some poor defenceless animal to take his mind off the ever so boring business of state.
Merlin had never liked hunting at all. Apart from the fact that he despised the idea of killing animals for fun, there hadn't been a single hunt for as long as he had been living in Camelot when not something had gone terribly wrong. Whether it was just a very angry wild boar that seemed to have decided that Arthur looked like a delicious lunch, the ever present bandits or a magical creature like a questing beast, there was always something to spoil the hunt. So why exactly Arthur still liked to do it was entirely beyond him.
Merlin remembered that Morgana had once, in those good old days that she was still good, asked Arthur if he thought that killing things mended a broken heart and Arthur had replied that it was just good fun. But there had been some truth in Morgana's assumption, because after Uther's death three weeks ago, Arthur had spent a considerable amount of time on his favourite pastime.
But there were all kinds of reasons why he would suddenly find himself in situations like this: Arthur had a broken heart, Arthur had an appetite for fresh meat, Arthur had guests he wanted to entertain or Arthur was just bored. Today's reason was that Arthur was absolutely fed up with the endless council sessions and with that Merlin could sympathise. There was only so much council chatter one could take. It was just the way that Arthur had chosen to remedy that that bothered Merlin.
This was just one of those days that everything went wrong, regardless what you did. Fortunately he had woken on time, which meant that he could serve Arthur his breakfast just after sunrise. He had gotten a few goblets and one apple thrown at his head for the trouble. Once he finally had gotten the king out of bed he went about his usual chores as Arthur dressed. That was when the second disaster had occurred, because Arthur was having trouble getting his belt to fit. Merlin, who knew that Arthur had been putting on weight since his coronation, had made some stupid remark about a fat king whose belt needed enhancing and had been rewarded for that cheek with a helmet to the back of his head. Arthur had then announced that they were going hunting today. He had sent Merlin down to the kitchens to get lunch, enough for them and the knights who were going to accompany him and of course Merlin's clumsiness kicked in at the most unfortunate moment. He had tripped over his own feet and had dropped the supplies all over the place, causing a few other servants to trip and fall as well.
It was a small wonder nothing bad had happened until now, but Merlin wasn't going to cheer in advance. They still had the entire afternoon before them. There was still plenty of time for bad guys or magical creatures to attack them.
'What's wrong with you, Merlin?' Arthur asked in mock desperation.
'Nothing,' Merlin said, defensive.
'I don't believe that for a second,' Arthur told him. 'Come on, what has happened to your usual mindless chatter?'
Merlin frowned. 'I thought you hated the chatter, because I kept scaring away the prey by doing it. There's just no pleasing you sometimes, is there?'
Arthur laughed. 'So, you're finally learning then?'
Merlin was still thinking about a witty answer when they were all startled by an exploding noise somewhere in the distance. The whole group came to a halt immediately.
'What was that?' Merlin asked. Well, whatever it was, it was bad.
Before anyone could answer that question they heard the noise again, closer this time. Arthur went into the full hunter mode right away. He started to make gestures with his hands that Merlin still hadn't completely figured out, but the knights clearly had. They split up, approaching the spot where they had heard the sound with care. Merlin supposed that he could best stay at Arthur's side, in case that the source of the explosion was dangerous.
'You're surrounded, Samir!' a woman's voice yelled. Merlin frowned. A woman was doing this? Correction, an angry woman was doing this. There was no mistaking that furious tone.
And they must be close now, Merlin thought. They had come into a clearing and he could see shapes moving amongst the trees on the other side. Four people, he counted.
'You're lying!' a man's voice shouted. There was a tone of fear underneath all his bravura and Merlin found himself wondering what on earth was going on here. And if the look on Arthur's face was anything to go by, he wasn't the only one.
Next moment they all bolted out of the trees, into the clearing. For a second or so they were all too focused on whatever it was that they were doing to notice the presence of the knights of Camelot, which gave Merlin the chance to look at them.
The first man, the one that was obviously being chased, had a light-coloured skin and dark hair. There was an expression of pure panic on his face. It reminded Merlin of a rabbit trapped in a snare.
He was followed, chased, by three other people, two women and a man. The first woman was slender, with blonde hair and green eyes. The determination and anger lying in those eyes were unmistakable. Almost beside her was the man, a dark-haired muscled fellow, holding some kind of iron device, which Merlin guessed was the source of the exploding noise they had just heard. The last chaser was a woman again, with very short blonde hair and wide blue eyes. She too was holding a kind of weapon, which she held pointed at the first man at all times, even though she was running.
Then they noticed that they were not alone. The hunted man's face fell a little further as he realised that the woman had spoken the truth, although she had not done that knowingly. He skidded to a stop and his shoulders hunched in defeat.
The other three stopped as well. The green-eyed woman looked mildly surprised for a second, but then just shrugged, accepting the new situation. She gave them no more than a quick, almost dismissing, glance before she directed her attention back at the first man. 'You're surrounded, Samir,' she pointed out in a sweet voice that was threatening at the same time.
If anything, that realisation gave Samir new will to fight. He reached inside his jacket and pulled out a similar device that the woman and man were already carrying it, pointing it at the woman talking to him. Even though they had no idea what exactly this thing was, there was no mistaking the danger it represented.
Of course that would be when Arthur's chivalry kicked in. Merlin wondered what it was with Arthur and damsels in distress. He wondered what Gwen would think about all this. Arthur took his crossbow and aimed it at Samir. 'Put that down,' he said in a low voice that spelled trouble for whoever it was used against. 'And leave the lady alone.'
The "lady" seemed as surprised as Samir. He turned to look at Camelot's king, pointing his weapon at Arthur's chest now. 'Stay out of this, infidel,' he snapped.
Arthur never as much as wavered. 'Leave the lady alone, Samir,' he said. 'Or I'll have to arrest you.'
While he was talking to the man, the "lady" was sneaking up to him from behind. Well, if that wasn't proof enough that she wasn't the average damsel in distress! By the looks of it, this wasn't the first time she was doing this.
She had the gift of very quiet movement. Samir didn't notice her at all until she grabbed both his wrists. He let out a wail of pure rage and fear. The lady twisted his arm until the weapon was pointing towards the sky and just in time, because another explosion rang out. Merlin, having the gift to slow time with his magic without anyone noticing, slowed time down just enough to see a small leaden object fly into the sky at great speed. He now understood the dangers of this kind of weapon. He could only imagine what damage such a thing could do to the human body.
The knights all backed away a few paces at the sound of the explosion, but the lady never as much as blinked. She twisted his arm a little further and Samir dropped his weapon with a yelp of pain. She then tackled him, gave him a few kicks in a few very sensitive places and in a matter of seconds Samir was on the ground, with the lady practically sitting on his neck, holding a small knife near his eyes.
'If I were you I'd stop struggling,' she said in a voice that rivalled Arthur's for threatening. 'Or I'll get really annoyed. Do you understand me?'
Samir nodded and the other man and woman visibly relaxed. The man even chuckled. 'You know, Ros, when you said you wanted the cavalry, I didn't think you meant it quite that literally.' He gave another chuckle and the other woman joined in.
The lady (Ros?) gave them both a death glare that could even have sent Arthur running for cover. 'We got him, Control,' she said to no one in particular. 'Do you copy?' She waited a few seconds and then repeated in a voice full of irritation: 'Control, do you copy?'
Arthur got off his horse and walked over to her. 'Are you all right, my lady?' he asked politely.
She seemed to have completely forgotten about all of them. She glanced up. 'Don't you have other places to be or something?' she snarled.
Ros was used to finding herself in strange situations. Being a spook, that came with the job. But she had to admit that this really was one of the strangest situations ever. She briefly considered that this was Harry Pearce's idea of a joke, but she dismissed the idea almost as soon as it entered her head. Harry would never do such a thing on an operation. There was too much at stake for that. So, the logical explanation for this situation was that these people were having some kind of medieval dress-up party.
She glared at the young man who had asked her if she was all right. 'Don't you have other places to be or something?' she snapped at him. So much for the secret part of this operation. There were at least twenty men with this one, which meant that this story would be out in the open within hours. Harry was going to love this. And speaking of Harry, why on earth wasn't he answering her anymore? Just two minutes ago he had been telling her to do no heroics, something she had ignored, of course. It wasn't like him to go off comms in the middle of an operation.
The man had apparently not gotten the message yet. He looked at both her and Samir, who was having a hard time breathing with her still more or less sitting on his windpipe. 'Are you sure you are all right, my lady?' he asked again.
Ros's patience had just arrived at an all-time low. 'Are you deaf?' she demanded, giving him her most iciest stare, the one that was rumoured to have the most terrifying terrorists tremble in fear. 'You can continue on now with your bloody silly dress-up party now. I don't need your help.'
And this really was her worst day in weeks, because Samir took the advantage that her temporary distraction gave him. He wriggled his right arm loose and gave her a hard blow on the temple. She fell to the side, blinking rapidly to make the sudden stars disappear. Samir was on his feet immediately, breaking into a run.
Ros got up as soon as she could see enough, ignoring the dizziness, and went after him. But before she had made three steps, Samir tripped and fell, an arrow sticking out of his right leg. Ros briefly wondered how she was going to explain a crossbow wound to Harry, but she didn't really care at the moment. All that mattered was that he did not escape again.
Lucas and Jo jumped on his back at almost the same time. Between them they were easily capable of handling Samir, so Ros turned back to the only reason she had almost let their suspect get away again. He was still standing in the same spot as before, holding his crossbow loosely, looking all too pleased with himself.
'You're welcome, my lady,' he said.
He did have some nerve. Ros had to give him that. 'Didn't I tell you to get the hell out of here?' she snapped at him. 'Get back to whatever festival you were playing at.'
For the first time there was some irritation visible in his blue eyes. 'Do you know who I am?'
'Don't care,' Ros told him truthfully.
'My name is Arthur Pendragon,' he said. 'At your service,' he added quickly.
She snorted. 'And I'm the emperor of Rome,' she said sarcastically.
He seemed to sense that she didn't believe him, which was a surprise. He wasn't totally stupid. 'I am king Arthur Pendragon,' he repeated.
She really wasn't in the mood for these games. 'Yeah, whatever,' she said. 'Now, get the hell out of here, or I'll have to arrest you as well.' She turned her back on him and walked back to Lucas, who was binding Samir up so tightly that it was a wonder he could still breathe. 'Did any of you hear anything from Harry yet?' she barked at them. Where was that man when they needed him? There also was no sign of the cavalry yet (in the form they had asked for anyway), which led Ros to wonder what the hell was going on. And why were the comms not working anymore? Everything went truly wrong today.
'Nothing, Ros,' Lucas said calmly. He clearly spent way too much time around Malcolm. 'But we have him.'
'It had escaped my notice,' Ros remarked dryly. 'Let's go and leave these idiots play dress-up. Pathetic,' she added under her breath. Grown man that dressed up like the famous king Arthur and his bloody knights.
Lucas chuckled. 'Come on, Ros, don't tell me you never did it.'
'The last time was when I was six,' she informed him. 'Not thirty-six, thanks so very much. Get him up, will you?' She turned back to the wanna-be king and his wanna-be knights, swinging her identification card in front of "Arthur's" nose. 'If any of you breathes as much as a word about this to anyone, I'll have you locked up in jail before you can blink your eyes. Understood?'
"Arthur" blinked a few times, but it seemed she had finally succeeded in shutting him up. Not wanting to be around for when he did find his tongue again, she turned back, grabbed Samir's shoulder in a death grip and marched him away from the clearing, back to the village, mission completed.