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Title: From The Sun To The World
Author: Sashataakheru
Fandoms: The Chaser RPS/Electric Light Orchestra RPS
Starring: Andrew Hansen, Charles Firth, girl!Craig Reucassel, Chris Taylor, Dominic Knight, Chas Licciardello, Julian Morrow, Jeff Lynne, Kelly Groucutt, girl!Bev Bevan
Pairings: Craig/Bev, one sided Chris/Craig, vague Andrew/Jeff
Warnings: violence
Rating: FRM
Beta: [livejournal.com profile] aphephobia
Part: 1/3
Word Count:
Author’s Notes: Er, this went in a weird direction, but I still think it works.
Summary: WWII AU set in Birmingham, UK in 1943. A mysterious aircraft falls to the ground near a pub in Birmingham, and the pilot inside warns of invasion. With Britain busy fighting a world war, it is hardly a warning that garners much attention. He reaches out to one man, hoping his warning be heeded in time before the world ends.

Thursday Evening, April 22, 1943
Miss Cassie Reucassel arrived at the club early, as usual, after leaving the refuge centre where she worked with her mother. It seemed like a perfectly calm night, which was either a blessing or a curse, depending on how much the Germans wanted to disrupt her routine. She was hoping nothing would happen. She had, though, gotten used to navigating through the darkened streets at night, thankful that she didn't have to travel far to get to her home. Not everyone was that lucky, and more than once people had been killed by bombing raids because they were out in the open on the streets.

Cassie shrugged off the fearful thoughts as she left the streets behind. Inside, it was warmer, and the people inside were at least trying to pretend like nothing was going on. Many of them she knew by name; they were here almost every night. Tonight, there were some soldiers and they sat in a group in their uniforms, chatting quietly. They all looked tired, but Cassie was hardly surprised. They had that same battle-weary look on their faces that all soldiers had. Cassie gave one of them a wink as she passed. She had seen him before, more often than the others, but had never really spoken to him. However, she didn't have to know his name to know he always looked at her with desire in his eyes.

Her attention was drawn away from the anonymous soldier as she saw Bev Bevan, the drummer of the band she usually played with, sitting at the bar. She perched on the stool next to him and ordered a drink.

"Well, hello there. You're looking a little lonely tonight, aren't ya?" she said. She had mastered the trick of leaning in close enough to ensure her desires were known without offending anyone. Later on, she might brush against his arm, just to reinforce the message.

Bev looked up at her and smiled. "Well, you weren't here. Of course I was lonely. Got here in once piece, I see."

"I could navigate those streets with me eyes blindfolded in pitch darkness," Cassie said.

"Yeah, I bet you could. Right before you got blown up," Bev said.

"I'd hit Jerry and their bombs for six and still be home for supper," Cassie said.

Bev couldn't help a small laugh. He knew her well enough to know that was probably true. "I don't know why they don't let you fight. War'd be over in a week."

"Ahh, that'd be too easy. Where's the fun in that? If you're gonna wallop someone, might as well make a decent effort of it." She smiled and finished her drink. "Can't say the Germans don't have it coming though."

Silence fell between them. Cassie was still waiting for the right moment to ask Bev to come out one night for a drink, just the two of them, but with the war and raids and everything else, no time had ever felt right. She ran a finger around the rim of the glass before asking for another. She sipped it this time, more of a distraction than anything else.

"You'd better get changed, they'll be calling you soon," Bev said, glancing at her watch.

She got to her feet and twirled around, showing off for him. "You sure I can't sing in me uniform? It's ever so fetching."

Bev gave her a look she knew well. She gave in and smiled at him again, her hand resting on his arm.

"Alright, alright, but you should come with me, I'll need a hand with the zip," Cassie said.

Bev laughed and got to his feet. "I thought you might. Come on, can't keep them waiting."

Taking his hand, Cassie led him to the back of the pub and the small room they had as a dressing room. It wasn't entirely kitted out properly, not like the big clubs in London, but it did the trick. Cassie kept all her outfits here for safe keeping. The room was also small and private enough for Cassie to steal a kiss or two from Bev. She cupped his cheek and marvelled at how smooth his skin was before stepping back, remembering she had to perform soon.

She turned to the dresses hanging at the end of the room on a dodgy-looking clothes rack as she slipped out of her uniform. It was neatly folded and left on a chair and she stood there in her underwear, somehow completely unashamed of doing so in the presence of a man who was not at all intimate with her.

"Right. Which one should I wear tonight then? Sparkling sequins, shimmering silk, or smouldering sateen?"

Bev leant against the dresser, not at all looking at the rack of clothes against the far wall. It was hard to look anywhere else when she was standing there like that. Their flirting had been mostly mutual, though Bev had always felt it ungentlemanly to ask her out when they worked together. It seemed unprofessional. Then again, he had his own reasons for remaining single, even if Cassie was doing her best to make him break them.

Cassie turned around and saw the way Bev was gazing at her. She approached him and rested her arms on his shoulders. "You're not thinking about anything at all, are you? Did you even hear my question? Go pick me an outfit!" Cassie laughed as she pushed him towards the clothes.

"Yes, ma'am, whatever you say."

* * *

Chris Taylor always watched Cassie, ever since he'd been transferred to Birmingham for the war. He was, at least, pleased he hadn't been sent to the Continent yet. He had no desire to get his head blown off just yet. It was a fellow Private by the name of Kelly Groucutt who'd introduced him to this particular little club. Sure, it was nothing like the clubs back in London, but there was a certain charm to it. There was also the fact there were precious few other places to go for a drink - that this particular club also had Cassie was the main reason he continued to drink there. Chris could ignore the scratches on the tables where young couples had etched their initials into the wood, the bar stool with a wonky leg, the crack in one of the stained glass windows by the bar; none of it mattered when Cassie was around.

He was there with some of the men from his battalion. Along with Kelly, who seemed able to supply almost anything for the right price, Dom Knight, another Private, had joined them, along with Chas Licciardello and Julian Morrow, who had the dubious honour of being the highest ranking officers in their group. Chris was still trying to work out how Chas had managed to get promoted to Lance Corporal, especially since he wasn't that much older than him. However, as much as he nitpicked Chas as a soldier, he was hardly much better, but pride made him find fault in others rather than in himself. He was at least pleased Julian outranked Chas; Chas needed someone to keep him in line. Chas had a tendency to follow his instincts rather than his orders.

Chris was always noticed when she entered. She looked beautiful, no matter what she was wearing, and he wanted to approach her to say how much he liked her, but he could never find the guts to, not when Bev was around. Chris was still a gentleman after all and had always assumed the two of them were together. Still, it didn't stop him watching her with a smile on his face.

"Are you still in love with her, Taylor? Jesus, don't you know when to give up?"

Kelly hit his shoulder as he spoke, breaking Chris from his staring. Chris turned to look at him with surprise, unsure what the problem was. He hadn't even heard him speak.

"Mate, she's way out of your league," Chas said, sitting back in his chair.

Chris looked at him, surprised, as if the thought had never occurred to him before. "What makes you say that?"

"You just have to look at her to know that. No way in hell would she want you," Chas said.

"Oh, I don't know, I bet I could charm her if I had a chance. I could take her back to London, show her some proper clubs," Chris said, trying to sound convincing.

"I can see that going well, can't you, lads? I bet she'd find some other charming gent while you were there and run off with him instead. You'd come crying back like a big baby, all alone," Chas said.

"You're also assuming she's not already spoken for. A girl like that is never single for long," Dom added.

"You really like dashing my hopes, the lot of you," Chris said, laughing off their teasing.

"I'm a realist, Taylor, and my realism tells me you got no chance with our Cassie. You need to find yourself a proper girl, not some showgirl like her. She'll run off before you can keep her," Chas said.

Chris sat back in his chair. He knew they were right, of course, but it didn't stop him thinking about her. He let himself drift off again as they talked around him, wondering what it would be like to be with her. He knew, of course, that their battalion could be called into action at any moment, but that didn't mean he didn't want to enjoy every day while it lasted, and if that meant dreaming about a girl he'd never have, well, there were worse ways to spend one's life.

* * *

Cassie heard the band start up. She took a moment to get into the right headspace before brushing aside the curtain with an elegant flourish and stepping onto the stage. The small audience cheered, and Cassie couldn’t help but smile. She gave a wink to Bev before slinking over to the pianist as she began her performance. Then she felt like she was invincible. No one could touch her when she was singing.

She'd finally worked out a routine she was happy with. The songs worked, and she had found a level of flirting that was acceptable, and she flitted between the audience and the pianist, hoping it would annoy Bev enough that he would ask her out. It made performing just that little bit more interesting.

Chris watched her in silence. Cassie was utterly entrancing. When she sang, Chris still felt like she was within reach, that all he had to do was ask and she would come willingly into his arms. She had made a habit of walking the room as she sang; every so often, her hand would brush against his arm and he would look up at her in amazement and she would wink and smile and walk off again, leaving Chris to the mercy of his comrades' taunting.

So caught up in her singing that night, he did not even hear the explosion as something ploughed into the ground a few streets away. The lights flickered, the floor quivered, and the glass shook. Chris’ first instinct was that it was a raid, and God help them, they needed to find shelter. Chas and Julian were already on their feet, listening for more bombs. Everyone fell silent, waiting for another bomb to drop.

There was sweet relief when another bomb didn’t appear. There was no chilling siren, no shaking ground and the power was still on, albeit barely. Then the question was, if it wasn't a raid, what was it? A low whispering started as people relaxed, almost certain they were not about to be blown up.

"I suppose we should go see what that was. Might be one of ours," Julian said.

"What if it wasn't? What if they made it through undetected and it's a bomb waiting to go off?" Chris said.

"Taylor, it could be a visitor from Mars for all we know. That's no excuse not to investigate," Chas said.

Chris wasn't satisfied. "But it could be-"

Chas grabbed his arm and pulled him forward. "Taylor, stop being a prat. Come on, we should go see if there's anything to be done."

"Yes, sir, sorry sir."

"There'll be time for that later. Get moving, you idiot," Chas said, shoving him towards the door.

* * *

Feeling suitably chastised, Chris followed his friends out to the street. A tongue of flame and smoke marked the impact site that appeared to be a few streets away. Julian, being the highest ranking soldier, took charge and led them towards it. There was no crowd in sight when they found it. There was no wailing siren, no other sign of other planes or bombs. Indeed, there was a crater in the road, and a crumpled heap of metal. The flames had died down, and were a peculiar purple-orange colour.

"Careful, lads. Could still be dangerous," Julian warned.

"Hey, I think I can see someone in there. Maybe it's one of ours and they got shot down," Chas said.

"Chas, don't get yourself-"

Julian's attempt to stop him were in vain as he too spotted what looked like a man amongst the wreckage. Chas approached and tried to pry a sheet of metal away from where the man was trapped. There was a groan as Chas found him, badly injured.

"Come on, help me out here. The metal's alright to touch," Chas said, unconcerned by the cool metal he was now prying away.

Peeling away the metal was not as easy as it had first appeared, and it took some time before the man was freed. Chas carefully pulled him away and lay his coat down for him to lie on. Well, he certainly looked English, whoever he was. Chas was surprised he was still alive, given the savage wounds he'd acquired.

"Got a name, sir?" Julian said, kneeling beside the injured man.

The man struggled to open his eyes. His lips barely moved as he spoke. "...come... come to warn you... they're coming..."

Chas looked at Julian. Whoever he was, he was definitely English. "Who's coming? Not more bloody Germans, I hope."

The man tried to say something more but the effort was beyond him. He lay limp and still, unconsciousness taking over.

"There's always more bloody Germans. Might've been in a prison camp and escaped. Better get him to hospital," Julian said.

"Taylor, go grab the truck, and don't be tardy about it," Chas said, standing to address Chris, who was peering at the metal carnage.

"Yes, sir."

Chas shook his head as Chris ran off. "He'll be late. He always is. I bet he stops to talk to that Cassie again. Oi, Dom, go with him. Make sure he actually obeys for once. This poor chap won't last much longer."

* * *

In spite of the urgent order he'd been given, Chris was eager to get back to the club, if only to see if Cassie was okay. He checked back to see if he was alone before slipping inside. No one seemed overly concerned by what had happened.

"So, bomb was it?" an elderly gent asked him as he passed.

"Plane crash. Well, a small one," Chris replied.

He leant against the bar and ordered a whiskey. He sipped it as he avoided doing what he was supposed to do. Some movement over in a corner to his right caught his attention and he shifted slightly to see what it was. He felt he shouldn't have been at all surprised to see Cassie and Bev together. He had his arm around her. It was all Chris needed to know. He finished his drink and left the club.

Chris was more than a little irritated to find Dom waiting for him as he had planned to slip back inside, but before he had a chance, Dom clapped him over the shoulder and told him to hurry up, leaving him no time to ask Cassie out. That bloody Lance Corporal would pay for that.

"Get in the truck, Taylor. Don't make me force you again," Dom said, shoving him towards the truck as he noticed Chris' reluctance to get in, gazing longingly back towards the pub.

Chris turned away and decided it was better, for once, to do what he was told. After all, a man's life was at stake and he knew he'd never hear the end of it if he died on the street. He climbed into the passenger side. Dom started the engine and they drove off. Chas was just getting the man onto a stretcher when they arrived.

"So, do we go help?" Chris said.

"Stay here. We'll be needed to get going fast, I'm sure. You'd better sit back with him though. Go on," Dom said, shooing him into the back.

Chris found a crate to sit on and waited. Soon enough, Julian and Chas carried the injured man into the back of the truck. Chas had sort of cleaned him up, wrapping bandages around the worst of his injuries. He was still a mess though.

"You look after him, Taylor. He could be important. I've radioed the base, they'll send some men out here to collect the wreckage. We'll wait for them. You two go ahead and make sure he's still alive when you get there, eh?" Chas said.

"Yes, sir."

Chris sat down beside him and almost regretted it as he felt the truck rumble into life again. This wasn't going to be a smooth journey, but there wasn't really another option, so it would have to suffice. The man was, by now, unconscious. Chris distractedly checked his pulse as often as he could while they drove, just to make sure he was still with them. The hospital had been moved to a place away from the main city to avoid being bombed.

* * *

While Cassie would have been perfectly fine to walk home by herself, she did appreciate Bev being there, especially after what had happened. She had to admit it had shaken her a little, and she appreciated his offer to comfort her. It was still pitch black out, and with no lights, walking the short distance to her home always felt like it lasted much longer than it did. She'd gotten used to unlocking her front door in the dark and she hardly turned Bev away when he offered to stay with her, just to make sure she was okay.

One of the good things about the blackout though was that Cassie had a bit of privacy when she brought Bev home. She'd wanted him for a while, but she had always shied away from bringing him home alone. Her mother had an irritating ability to turn up at a moment’s notice and she had never wanted to be caught with a man in her bed. It would be improper for an unmarried woman, or so her mother had always told her. Cassie wasn’t sure she still believed it. Perhaps it was the near miss that had changed her mind.

Her bedroom was small, with a worn red carpet covering the floorboards. Her bed was an old double she’d gotten cheap a couple of years ago. A few trinkets lay on the bedside table and the dresser. She allowed herself to light a single candle, once she was sure the blinds were properly drawn and the light couldn't escape. That candle sat on her dresser, far away from the window. She wasn't entirely stupid, much as some liked to think she was.

Bev brought her into his arms and kissed her gently. She liked the way he kissed, and his skin was wonderful to touch. Slipping her coat off and hanging it over a chair, she had no inclination to change out of the silky red number she’d worn for her performance that night. There hadn’t been time anyway, but that was hardly the point. It hugged her body closely, emphasising the way her hips curved and giving her just enough cleavage for her to feel proud of. She slipped her hands inside his shirt in between undoing the buttons one by one. She stopped when her hands touched bandages, wrapped tightly around his chest.

"Did you go and get yourself an injury? What you got bandages on for?" she said as she slipped the shirt off his shoulders.

Bev covered his chest with his arms and turned away from her. "It's nothing, I just-"

"What is it? Surely you can tell me. If it's just a wound, I'll be careful," Cassie said.

"It's not a wound, it's not that at all." He paused, unsure he wanted to tell her. Revealing his secret might be the death of him. Perhaps he shouldn't have come this far.

Cassie moved in front of him and rested a hand on his arm. "So, what is it then? What are you hiding from me?"

He met her gaze, surprised to see nothing but concern on her face. Was she really worried about him? Could he trust her? He’d never trusted anyone with his secret before. Then again, he’d never met anyone like her before. Maybe she was safe to tell.

"Alright, I'll show you, but you've got to promise you won't tell anyone. I've lived this way for too long to have this compromised now. Can you promise me that?"

Cassie wanted to make some smart remark, but something in his eyes told her to be serious. "Alright, I promise. It stays between us. May I?"

Bev nodded his agreement and she kissed him as her fingers began undoing the bandages. She figured it might settle him if she did it sensually enough. Soon, the bandages were left in a pile on the dresser, and Bev felt even more naked than he had before, his small breasts exposed to her. Cassie smiled reassuringly.

"I was born a woman. I-I mean, I'm still a woman, it's just. Well, you know what it's like. Dad always wanted a son, and well, I'm an only child so what else was he to do? I guess I'm used to it now. Being a boy. You don't hate me, do you?" Bev said.

"I wondered why you were so different from the others. Don't worry, I can work with this too," Cassie said, taking a step closer. She cupped his cheek and brought him into a soft kiss.

* * *

Chris was glad the man had not managed to die on them while they travelled to the hospital. He kept him as still as possible, trying to shelter him against the bumpy journey. Halfway there, he sat down beside the man and cradled him in his arms. It may not have been the perfect way to transport him, but if it stopped him getting any further injuries, so be it.

He began cleaning the remaining blood from his face as a distraction. The man didn't wake, of course, but that was hardly the point. Chris was surprised he wasn't dead, given all the injuries on his face alone. There was a particularly nasty cut near his left eye; Chris wondered if he might lose his sight. He looked about 40 years old, with a trimmed beard and hair that badly needed a cut. He didn't look like someone who might've escaped from a German prison camp though. In spite of the injuries, he looked rather healthy. Well, comparatively speaking, of course. Chris had seen soldiers returned from camps, and they did not look like this man at all. So if he wasn't from the camps, where did he come from? And why was he here?

Chris got none of these answers as they drove on. The man remained silent and still, cradled in his arms. When they arrived at the hospital, he and Dom carried him in. The man's condition meant he was hardly going to be turned away, and they took him in to see if he could be saved.

"I suppose we should get back," Chris said as they left the hospital. They'd done their job; there didn't seem much point in dallying.

"Yeah, I hope he makes it.” Dom said. “Come on, you drive this time."

"You still trust me to drive this thing? You've got more faith in me than Julian does," Chris said, climbing into the driver's seat anyway.

"No, I don't trust you. But I'm too tired to drive. You can take me back to base so I can get some bloody sleep."

It was difficult to argue with that. Chris took the driver's seat and drove back to base while Dom dozed beside him. A small part of his mind wanted to head back to town after he’d dropped Dom off, just to see if Cassie was still around. However, it was very late and it was probable that she’d gone home instead. Chris cursed at his bad luck. There was always something getting in the way of him seeing her. Perhaps he should just give up on her, like everyone kept telling him to.

* * *

Back at the crash site, Julian wandered around the wreck, wondering what it might be. He had radioed for some help and a big truck, but apparently MI5 had heard about the crash and wanted to claim the wreck. Julian was fine with that - at least he wouldn't have to look after it. His men had been told to guard it and keep anyone away. By now, some people had gathered, drawn from their homes by the noise. They stood about on their doorsteps, wrapped in dressing gowns and blankets, eyeing the wreckage with suspicion.

It was a strange object, Julian decided. Even in its mangled state, you could almost make out the round shape of the craft. It was made from a silvery metal, but it didn't behave like any metal Julian was familiar with. It was very strong, it did not conduct heat, and it was pliable when it needed to be, which was how they managed to get the pilot out without injuring him further. The material just peeled away like ripping the lid off a sardine can. Actually, it was much easier than that. It was more like tearing paper. And yet… It appeared to be stronger than any metal known to man.

The inside was difficult to see, but it didn't look like it had been built by English hands. Perhaps it was a German test plane. But Julian didn't quite accept this theory either. There were no German badging on the craft, and it did not look at all like it had come from this time period. It was too... futuristic, even for Germans. Which made him wonder what on earth it was.

There didn’t appear to be any buttons on what Julian assumed was the main control panel. There was a single piece of shattered translucent material. It wasn’t glass, nor was it plastic. Julian picked up a few pieces in his hand and watched them melt into a liquid and coalesce into a single piece. It formed a perfect circle and shone brightly. When he put the disc near other pieces, they too began to merge together. The newly formed plate began emitting flickering coloured lights, and whirring noise, as if it was trying to repair itself.

Eventually, he gave up trying to work out its origins and decided to leave it for MI5 to deal with. They'd work out what it was. Maybe it was Russian. It didn't matter particularly; soon it wouldn't be his responsibility anymore. Julian took a seat on a nearby set of stairs, where Kelly had been sat, keeping out of the way.

"So, what do you make of it?" Julian said.

"Search me. Looks foreign. Never seen metal like that either. It behaves wrong. It's not supposed to do them things," Kelly said.

"You're telling me. And now MI5 wants it. I didn't bother to ask what they wanted it for. Though if they're interested, it's probably foreign. Ten bob they take it away and we never see it again," Julian said.

"No contest, that's what they always do. They'll probably take the pilot as well, move him to their base out in Lichfield. What they do to him there is anyone's guess," Kelly said.

Julian turned to look at him. "How do you know the base is out in Lichfield?” he asked. “I thought it was supposed to be secret?"

Kelly shrugged. "I thought everyone knew they were out there. They hardly made a secret of moving there. It's hard to miss a long convoy of military trucks. Plus, I've got a mate who said he'd been there, fixing up some lighting or so he said. There he was, doing his job, and there were spies all around him. Didn't know what they were doing though. He never heard any of them talk. Said they were a bit weird, kept looking at him like he might be some sort of German spy."

"Probably thought he was a spy himself. That's MI5 for you. Secretive bastards, the lot of them," Julian said.

"Secretive bastards? That's hardly the worst insult I've ever heard. You the one in charge?"

Julian looked up to see a pair of men in pristine Army dress uniform. Getting to his feet, Julian approached and saluted. "Corporal Julian Morrow, sir. We've kept the wreck secured."

"Good man. So, tell me what happened again. You say it just crashed out of the sky?"

The one who spoke was clearly superior to his companion. Julian felt he might almost have liked him, if they had met outside of a world war. There was something in his pale blue eyes that Julian found fascinating. His ginger hair was so neat and short, it was almost impossible to see from underneath his cap, but he had a round face and a body that was probably not as fit as it might be. His companion was almost his opposite, with a slender frame and eyes Julian recognised all too well. He wore his hat in such a way that his fringe stuck out at an odd angle; it looked dark brown, but it was hard to tell. Whoever he was, he'd seen war first hand. His superior still lacked that. He was probably some upstart from London who'd never been a soldier in the field.

"Well, sir, we were just in the club a few streets back, you know, taking some time off, and then we hear this big explosion, like a bomb going off. Of course there's no siren, but everyone's still panicked. I gather the men up and come investigate. We find this here, and there's some poor bloke inside. We've had him shipped off to hospital, though I'd be surprised if he makes it. Badly injured, he was," Julian said.

"Did he say anything?"

Julian thought for a moment, trying to remember. "He said... 'Come to warn you. They're coming'. And then he blacked out, sir. He sounded English, sir, one of us. Maybe he escaped from one of the camps."

"Hmm, it's possible, I suppose. Won't know until we question him. I've seen spies like him before. The Germans have gotten good at fooling us with men like him. Leave it to us, Corporal. We'll sort him out."

Aware the conversation was over, Julian saluted again and watched them move to the wreck. Julian sat back down beside Kelly, watching them investigate.

Kelly glanced at him. "The usual MI5 pricks then?"

"Oh, sure, just like always. Didn't even get their names. They'll dismiss us soon enough and we can head back to base and get some sleep."

Chas joined them then, leaning back against the stairs as he watched them working. He slipped out a small hip flask and took a swig, passing it around. "You know, if I didn't know any better, I'd say that craft wasn't built on Earth."

Julian gave him a look that suggested Chas might be off his nut. "Of course it was built on Earth. What makes you think it wasn't?"

Chas turned to look at them, slipping a small notebook out of his pocket. He briefly consulted it, flipping through the pages to find where he’d last written. There were some messy diagrams and notes that made no sense to Julian. "I managed to get a look at some of the instrumentation, some of the wiring. It's not done like we do it. It's nothing like Earth, and it's got some weird components we'd never bother to use. Not even Germans build planes like that. There are also things in there I've never seen before."

Julian stifled a laugh. Sure, Chas might, for once, be telling the truth, but he was hardly going to admit it now. "Oh yeah, like what?"

"Some of the gauges, well, the ones that weren't crushed. And that clear stuff, that weird plastic material that seems like it's alive. You can't tell me that's natural either. I'm telling you, guys, it's not from Earth. I don't know who made it, but it wasn't humans. Maybe it was Martians or something," Chas said, eyes wide with possibility and his voice quivering with excitement. He made a promise to himself to try and rebuild it once the war was over, just to see if he could find out how it worked.

“You’re completely mental, Chas. I know metal better than you do, and there’s no way that was made anywhere but Earth,” Kelly said, dismissing his theory.

Julian merely rolled his eyes and smiled. He knew what Chas was like when he got an idea in his head. His eyes were gleaming in a way that was never good. "You are not permitted to annoy MI5 or get in the way of their investigation. I'm not even going to let you go see the pilot, because I know that's what you were thinking of doing, am I right?"

"I was not! I was, you know, going to see Annalise," Chas pleaded, using a nurse he was rather acquainted with as a cover.

"You haven't used that excuse for months. We both know she was transferred anyway," Julian said.

"That's hardly the point. Look, can we go and see him? I want to see him properly, just once, before those loons take him away," Chas said.

Julian thought for a moment. If he said yes, and his CO found out, he was bound to get in serious trouble. On the other hand, Chas would probably go anyway, with or without his blessing. "You've got an hour. I won't cover you if you're late. Don't get those pricks pissed off either. It's me that'll have to answer for it."

"Don't worry, I won't piss them off. Might play with them a little though.” Chas grinned and tried not to look as mischievous as he felt. Julian gave him a pointed look and Chas settled down a little. “Alright, alright, I'll leave our delicate little spies alone. Gee, you're no fun sometimes. I'll see you later."

And with that, Chas was gone. Julian sighed. "Keep an eye on him. I know what he's like."

"Good thing me parents live out there. Said I'd come visit. Get me some leave?"

"Sure. It's the least I can do. I'll organise it when I get back. Make sure he doesn't do anything stupid," Julian said.

"Will do me best, sir," Kelly said. With a nod and a salute, he was off.

Julian got to his feet. He should probably head off to base again, and wait for his men to return. He looked up as Chris returned from the hospital. Julian approached the truck and peered inside.

"You alone, Taylor?"

"Took Dom back to base, needed some shut-eye, sir. Came straight here in case I was needed," Chris said. "Are we done here?"

"Yeah, take us back to base. I think we both need some bloody shut eye," Julian said, climbing inside the truck.

"Right on it, sir," Chris said as he revved the truck and drove off away from the crash site.

* * *

Andrew Hansen watched his commanding officer as he supervised the crew who were retrieving the wreckage. A crane had been brought to lift it onto the back of a truck to take it back to their base. There was little for him to do, as Charles Firth had pretty much taken over, even though he'd insisted he come with him. Andrew had never quite fully respected him once he learned he'd never seen combat. Andrew had nearly died fighting the Italians in Egypt. It had been a surprise attack, though the numbers were small, and Andrew had been given a gun and told to shoot anyone who wasn't British. It had made a man of him, that one night, and when he'd gone back to the mainland, he'd asked to stay. He did not wish to see more combat.

And so he found himself sent to Lichfield with Charles to deal with foreign spies. He wanted out, if he was being perfectly honest, but he had grudging respect for the rest of his command and he could think of no reason he would be allowed to be discharged, so he would serve until this God-forsaken war was over and retire after that. It had given him too many nightmares.

Charles calling his name broke him from his reverie. He looked up to see Charles standing before him, looking annoyed.

"Take the truck. Head to that bloody hospital and pick up our pilot. Don't let them refuse. He could be a spy, so we can't just leave him in civilian hands, alright? Got that, Hansen?" Charles said.

"Oh, yes, of course. Right on it."

Charles grabbed his shoulder as he went to leave. "Look, are you okay Andrew? You've been rather scatterbrained lately. I don't need to force you to take some leave, do I?"

Andrew hated the concern in his eyes. "No worse than normal, sir. I should get going."

Charles wasn't ready to let him go. He stared at him, trying to stare him down, but said nothing further on the subject. There would be time to confront Andrew about it later, not when spies might be on the loose. "You'd better get going then. I'll expect a brief when you get back."

"Yes, I expected as much. I'll be as quick as I can."

With a quick glance back at his boss, Andrew headed off. Charles watched him go before turning his attention back to the craft that had crashed and the team who were getting it ready to transport.

* * *

Consciousness came slowly to the injured pilot. Swirling memories of being on another planet, of hiding behind a rocky mound as he watched them gathering soldiers, of knowing things were about to change, of an acute sense of panic, all these played out in his mind as he slept. He knew he'd managed to escape from them. He was also aware he had made it to Earth. He hoped he'd arrived in the right place at the right time, but he wasn't sure. There had been an explosion and he had crashed. What caused the explosion he could only guess. He just hoped he hadn't been followed.

Assuming these humans were nice enough to not kill him and he was in fact still alive, he might have a chance once things stopped hurting. He wasn't used to taking human form for so long. His bones were aching at their inflexibility, and his back had never quite forgiven him for learning this particular form. It had come in handy in the past - or was it the future? - and there were certainly many things he liked about living on Earth as a human. The name he usually took as a human was Jeff... Jeff something. Jeff Smith? Jeff Wood? He couldn't quite remember, and it bothered him less than he thought it might. That said, he felt he should remember his human name for when he was properly awake, and not just lying on a bed, barely alive. Sure, it had been a risk, coming to Earth, but it had been a risk he was willing to take. He didn't like the idea of the Earth being invaded and destroyed, so he came to warn them, to protect them. Maybe they would be strong enough to fend off their attack. Jeff hoped so. 

Was he protecting them? He wasn't even sure anymore. He thought he could hear explosions far away, but it was hard to tell. There were other, quieter, noises that he could hear around him. The air tasted weird, all tangy, metallic and sharp, and he found himself coughing a few times as he got used to it filling his lungs again. He didn't try to move. His body felt heavy as lead, and his eyelids refused to open.

As his awareness stretched beyond his body, he became aware of someone beside him, holding his hand. He thought he was moving his fingers. He couldn’t really tell, but his brain was convinced he was moving his fingers, even if he really wasn’t. All it did was send sparks of pain flying up his arm. Oh, that wasn't good.

"Hey there. You awake, are yeh?"

It took a while to realise the voice was speaking English, a language he could understand once he recognised it. He tried speaking so he could reply to her question, but he wasn't sure if merely hearing his own voice in his head meant that same voice was actually being spoken aloud. It was hard to tell, just like moving his fingers.

"I don't know. I don't even know," he said, his voice weary and soft.

"Took a right beating, you did. I'm surprised you're even awake. Most men I've seen come in with your injuries don't wake up for days."

He tried to laugh, but it came out as a wheeze. "Well, love, I ain't like most men you've seen then."

He decided to stop talking. It was draining what little energy he had left. He still couldn't open his eyes. His body relaxed and he lay there, getting used to the air he would have to breathe until he could leave this planet for home. Slowly, the ache in his lungs was fading. It wasn't a great ache compared to the rest of his injuries, but it was enough. He thought he felt something cold running up the inside of his arm before he fell deep into sleep again.
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September 2010

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