Authors: Guy Adams
‘Mr Matheson, I have cradled the leaking brains of presidents in my bare hands. Do you really think you’ve got what it takes to intimidate me?’
A CIA Special Activities Division squad goes rogue with a cargo marked ‘Torchwood’ that they’ve been escorting from somewhere called Cardiff. A very special shipment the UK’s new coalition government was suspiciously keen to offload at almost any price.
The Agency puts Rex Matheson on the case. But someone is obstructing him at every turn – each time he seems to be catching up with the rogue unit, something puts him off the trail.
Rex is the CIA’s golden boy – but has he met his match in the evasive Mr Wynter?
Based on the hit series created by Russell T Davies,
The Men Who Sold the World
is a prequel to
Torchwood: Miracle Day
starring Mekhi Phifer as Rex Matheson, with John Barrowman and Eve Myles as Jack Harkness and Gwen Cooper.
Guy Adams is the author of
Torchwood: The House that Jack Built
and was a regular contributor to
magazine. He wrote the best-selling
Rules of Modern Policing: 1973 Edition
The Future of Modern Policing: 1981 Edition
The Wit and Wisdom of Gene Hunt
, along with a two-volume series companion to
Life on Mars
. His other books include
The Case Notes of Sherlock Holmes
and the fantasy novels
The World House
New titles in the
series from BBC Books
Long Time Dead
by Sarah Pinborough
by James Goss
The Men Who Sold the World
by Guy Adams
Bent Low sniffed the air and moved out onto the plain. The sun was dropping in the sky, and Bent Low knew the night chill would rob him of his breath if he stayed out much longer. It was colder these days than it used to be. The air made smoke grow in front of Bent Low’s face when he breathed. He would try and catch the smoke, squeeze the warmth from it. But the smoke was only the ghost of fire, and ghosts held no warmth for Bent Low. If he wasn’t back in the cave by the time the sun broke on the earth, back next to the fire that still lived, he would die out here. And that would feed his family no better than the empty pouch on his back.
Bent Low remembered when his father had brought home meat from the plain, there had always been plenty of it. Bent Low’s father had been a great hunter. Perhaps he had been too good. Perhaps his axe had killed all of the animals so that now, as Bent Low tried to feed his own family, there was nothing left to eat.
Bent Low kept his eyes on the dirt, reading the story of the earth, the route the animals had taken as they also came onto the plain looking for food. He saw the track of an ox, like two curled mouths. It was a sign of good food. But he did not trust it. He had followed the tracks of oxen for hours before and found nothing. The earth held the story of the oxen’s passing for too long since the last rain. They had been gone for many days. The ground told him things that were not so. The ground stole the food from his family’s belly. He took his knife and hacked at the ground. Sometimes, when you were angry enough, the earth gave up roots and bulbs. The ground feared your knife. It tried to make friends with you so you would not kill it. The gifts of the earth were not as good as meat but they were better than nothing at all.
As he cut at the earth there was the sound of thunder from the horizon. He looked at the sky, trying to decide whether it was angry or pleased with him. It was a cold sky and kept its feelings to itself. He looked towards where the noise had been. There was something there, a new shape on the horizon. He shouldn’t look, he had no time. If he waited any longer the darkness would come and kill him with its cold.
But Bent Low was curious. Bent Low wondered if the sky had given him a gift.
Bent Low ran towards the shape in the distance, forcing his tired legs to move fast so they gave him speed and heat.
As he got closer, he could see that the shape was a man, though not like Bent Low. This man’s skin
was darker but almost hairless. He was bigger than Bent Low, a giant, and he wore strange, thin skins. He will be dead when the cold comes, thought Bent Low. Those skins will give no heat at all. Maybe he was dead already. For surely a man could not fall out of the sky and survive?
‘Please,’ the man said, though Bent Low could not understand the noise, keeping back in case the man was dangerous. ‘Please get help…’ the man continued, reaching out to Bent Low. ‘My name’s… Rex Matheson, and I’m with the CIA.’
Wilson had thrown up so often on the voyage out he was sure this must be soul he was picking from between his teeth. Though having worked eighteen years for the Department, it was unlikely he had any soul left.
There was a knock on his cabin door. He rolled his cheek from the lip of the toilet and went to answer it.
‘Yanks are here, sir,’ said the junior rating outside before offering a salute.
‘At ease sailor.’ Wilson smiled. Another six months and the boy would be spitting on the security services, not saluting them. ‘I’ll be right up.’
Wilson closed the door and headed back to the bathroom.
He looked at his face in the mirror. It was as grey and wet as offal.
Why couldn’t he just sit behind a desk? The last five years had been a gastric diary of seasick oceans, far-eastern belly pains and oriental fevers.
He bet Yates didn’t have to put up with so much travel. But then Rick Yates was like most Foreign Secretaries: you had to explain the lingo to them the minute they were beyond the Central Line.
The cabin shook as the American boat pulled alongside, and Wilson stepped out of his cabin before the renewed rocking set his stomach off again. On these little boats you felt every damn wave.
It was beginning to get dark, but the evening held its heat. Climbing into the open air was like sticking your head under an electric hand-dryer.
‘Bloody wonderful,’ Wilson muttered as he felt his forehead erupt with sweat. ‘Absolutely bloody wonderful.’ He waddled over to Harris, the Navy officer in charge. ‘Evening, Commander,’ he said. ‘How many are there?’
‘Four above deck,’ Commander Harris replied. ‘If our intelligence is accurate, that would leave three more below. Typical covert vehicle, no insignia, non-military. Shows they’re being cautious, at least. How do you want to play this?’
Wilson shrugged. ‘Quickly. The sooner we’re bound for friendly waters the better. I’ll show off the cargo, you and your men keep an eye out up here.’
‘I’ll have a couple of men accompany you to the hold. You shouldn’t be on your own with Gleason.’
‘What’s he going to do? He’s a collection agent, nothing more.’ Wilson’s standing orders were to limit the number of people who saw what they were carrying. That included the Navy. ‘You keep
your men up here. The only threats that need concern us are gatecrashers.’
The Commander looked displeased but nodded, and the two men crossed the deck to where the boats were being joined by a gangway.
‘Good evening,’ said Wilson, as the four men climbed aboard. Dear Lord, he thought, look at them in their crewcuts and cargo pants, they couldn’t have looked more like soldiers if they’d turned up in dress uniform. He extended his hand to the man in front. ‘Glad you found us all right.’
The man stared at him, a scowl beneath a thin bristle of salt and pepper hair, but didn’t reply.
‘Fine,’ Wilson said. ‘I can dispense with pleasantries.’ He withdrew his hand and gestured beneath deck. ‘This way, Colonel Gleason.’ Wilson smiled at the faint surprise on the older man’s face. ‘We read our files,’ he said. ‘I wasn’t about to loiter here without having a good idea of who I was meeting.’ He gestured to each of them in turn. ‘Oscar Lupé, Owen Mills, Glen Shaeffer. I presume the rest of your unit is still aboard your boat? I believe in knowing who I’m dealing with, Colonel. You did the same, I’m sure.’
‘Actually,’ Gleason replied, ‘I didn’t bother.’
, Wilson admitted, leading the Americans below deck.
When they came to the hold’s heavy iron door, Wilson tapped out the key-code to the lock. There was the solid clunk of an iron bolt withdrawing and a hiss of air as the door opened.
‘After you,’ said Wilson, ushering the Americans inside.
Stepping through the door after them, he pressed the button for the lights, and held back as the fluorescents came on. They illuminated four packing crates sat a neat distance from each other. Each bore a distinctive logo on them, a ‘T’ built from hexagons. Wilson took a crowbar from a hook on the wall and marched over, swinging it nonchalantly from one hand to the other.
‘Here you are, gentlemen,’ he announced. ‘Ordnance several light years beyond your current defence programme.’ He handed the crowbar to Lupé. ‘In fact, beyond
current defence programme. All guaranteed one of a kind. Certainly in this arm of the universe.’
Lupé prised the top off one of the cases and stood back so that Gleason could inspect the contents. He pulled out a gun made of a deep red metal.
‘Do be careful with that, Colonel,’ said Wilson. ‘That’s a Judoon firearm. At its highest setting it would punch a hole through the side of this ship and we’d all be swimming home.’
Gleason examined the gun and then tossed it back nodding for Lupé to open another crate. There was the squeal of nails wrenched from wood and then Gleason was poking through thin, straw-like packing material while Lupé opened the other two crates.
‘Obviously the manifest is as reported to your superiors,’ said Wilson, eager to conclude his business.
Gleason glanced at him. ‘It’s my job to make sure,’ he said. ‘That’s why my government didn’t bother sending an office clerk.’
‘Sir.’ Shaeffer was holding a large rifle that appeared to be encrusted in shellfish.
‘You had a leak?’ Gleason asked Wilson, stepping towards the other man.
‘It’s bio-organic,’ Wilson explained as Shaeffer began tugging at fronds of seaweed that hung from the rifle’s midsection. ‘It’s supposed to look like that. Look, do be careful, all of this equipment is—’
The rifle gave a small cough, and Lupé vanished. The crowbar he had been holding fell to the ground and bounced, the clang of metal against metal echoing around the hold.
Gleason pulled out his sidearm and pointed it towards Wilson.
‘Don’t you bloody point that at me,’ Wilson shouted. ‘Your man activated it by mistake.’ The rifle continued to hum. ‘You need to put that down!’ he insisted to Shaeffer who was now holding the rifle at arm’s length.
The soldier looked to Gleason, who nodded. Carefully, he placed it on the floor. It continued to hum, a faint orange light working its way up and down its length.
‘What do we do, sir?’ Shaeffer asked Gleason.
‘You back away from the crates,’ said Wilson, ‘and we figure out how your commanding officer is going to explain the disappearance of one of his men due to negligence.’