Another Life

ONE

You’ve never been the kind of soldier who would disobey a direct order. That’s about to change right now. Because here you are gripping the cold and pitted plastic of the steering wheel in a stolen Wolf Land-Rover. The Wolf is loaded with equipment, and you are staring into the barrels of two SA8O rifles. Those L85 individual weapons are what have stopped you driving the Wolf through the barracks’ exit barrier. In the bright midday sunlight, the barrier’s tattered candy-stripe is still the most colourful thing among a swathe of brown earth, the dirty grey guard post, and the sentries’ khaki uniforms.

You recognise both the soldiers who are aiming those rifles at you, of course. Privates Foxton and Kandahal. It’s only a few months since you first saw them in training, at the start of their twenty-four weeks. Ross Foxton looks the more nervous, with none of the cocksure swagger of his first days at Caregan training camp. His pale face is flushed, threatening to match his cropped ginger hair.

Sujit Kandahal is shorter, stockier, dark in appearance and demeanour. He is bracing his feet in the dirt to steady his stance. He’s got a good grip on the weapon, he’s balanced well, and he’s positioned himself to your right with a clear view of you beyond the bonnet of the Wolf. In other circumstances, you’d tell him you were impressed. ‘Turn the engine off and step out of the vehicle with your hands raised. Sir,’ he adds, like an afterthought. Not used to giving orders. Especially to you.

You can feel the hunger rising again. So soon, much sooner than you’d thought possible. You try to swallow it down, and then watch for the reaction that this provokes in the sentries. Maybe Foxton interprets it as nerves, because he steps calmly to your left, some of that old confidence returning. ‘Sergeant Bee, you have to step out where we can see you.’ A clear, shouted statement. No hesitation in his Scots accent. You stare at the weapons, and don’t make eye contact with the soldiers. Your face is impassive. You’ll give them no more clues.

‘All right,’ you say, calm and loud. ‘I’m coming out.’ You reach down. slowly, and kill the Wolf’s Rover V8 engine as easily as you’re going to kill one of these sentries.

As you step from the vehicle, you scoop up your Browning and slip it into the rear of your waistband. At nearly two pounds weight, it’s not comfortable or safe to hide the pistol there, but it’s out of Foxton and Kandahal’s line of sight.

The light wind wafts the sound of church bells to you from the local village, heralding the afternoon service as usual. You think: Time of death, twelve thirty.

No point in running. Just time for a quick smile. ‘See you again,’ you tell them brightly. ‘Soon.’

The muscles in Kandahal’s forearm twitch. ‘I said hands in the air, Sergeant—’

Even before he’s finished speaking, you’ve brought the Browning around in a double-handed grip and loosed off two shells in quick succession. The first takes Kandahal in the forehead, just below the badge on his beret, and he sprawls in an ugly pile on the tarmac.

Foxton still has you cold. You let him fire the killing shot, and hope for better luck in another life.

TWO

‘People live here,’ Jack Harkness said to Gwen as they stepped out of the Torchwood SUV.

‘Yeah. Awful, isn’t it?’ she answered. ‘Even when it’s gone eight o’clock in the rest of Wales, it’ll still be 1955 in Splott.’

Jack looked at her sideways. ‘No, I mean they live here.’ He gestured around the