Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cultural Exchange Part 1


Greater Love Has No Man Than This...

Sinking back in the pilot's seat, Ben let out a heartfelt sigh of relief. Not that he'd had any serious doubts about the outcome between himself and the Trods, whose Confederacy had now pledged to serve and protect the human race in honor for Ben's selfless actions in getting Operation: Delta to save the robotic race from the deadly computer virus unleashed by the Slitheen.

"That went well, don't you think?" he said as Kyle sat down.

"I'll believe it went well once we're back at Cambridge, like."

"Well, that shouldn't be very long, should it?" Truth be told, Ben wouldn't mind having them back safe and sound on Earth as soon as possible. He didn't entirely share Kyle's conviction that the Super-Trod had a grudge against Ben for his association with the Doctor, but the giant black and gold robot was quite enough to make a person as uncultured and paranoid as Kyle uneasy.

"Ang about, like," Kyle frowned, pointing at the control panel. "Ain't that the petrol gauge?"

"Dear, dear, Kyle," Ben snorted. "Trodos shuttle craft work on cold fusion technology, not petrol. Honestly, sometimes I really think I'm wasting my time trying to educate you at all. You just refuse to absorb any of the knowledge I have to offer."

"Arright, arright, like!" Kyle complained. "It's the fuel meter! Look at it."

Ben sat up straight. "My, that is looking a little low!"

"If we run out of fuel, what'll happen, like?" Kyle wondered. "We'll just stop or what?"

Ben's keen mind fought off the sudden, pathological desire for absinthe and worked with amazing speed. "If we're inside the atmosphere of Earth when it runs out," he said a few minutes later, "we'll crash!"

Kyle, as ever, looked nonplussed. "Well, you're the one with the degree, like! Any ideas?"


Ben spent the next fifteen minutes very loudly hurling abuse at the Super-Trod over its chav-like betrayal of an Earth Ambassador, immediately deciding this was an assassination attempt to lower the morale of humanity as prelude to a full-scale invasion. Ben's find was filled with nightmarish images of Trod saucers descending while the people of Earth were worried about Ben's state funeral, and the leaders of the world too busy weeping with the tears of a thousand Radiohead albums to organize a defense. How many young people he had inspired would simply give up if he died in a tragic, senseless waste?

Kyle meanwhile had been working frantically to seize control of the shuttle. Since it was controlled by radio signals from the Trod Mothership, it seemed sensible to block that signal and switch to manual control. He had little idea how to maneuver the craft, but if they could get into a stable orbit, maybe Torchwood or the BRG could come to their rescue. It was a small chance, but better than certain death.

"This had better work," Ben blubbered miserably.

"If it doesn't, we're dead like!" Kyle observed grimly. He kicked the transciever circuits apart, shattering them utterly. A light began to flash. "Why aye!" Kyle laughed, indicated a panel marked "MANUAL CONTROL". "We have control!"

"Quickly, ASBO boy!" Ben wailed. "Put all drives onto maximum! We might be able to land before we run out of fuel!"

"No we won't! We'll just crash quicker!"

Ben made a mental calculation using the calculator function of his mobile. "We've only got nine minutes!"

Kyle looked at the fuel gauge as it dropped lower. "There must be some way round this!" he groaned. "How can we make the fuel last longer?" he wondered. "I mean, we need fuel to get to Earth, we need enough fuel to move a shuttle this heavy to Earth... so if the shuttle didn't weigh so much, we'd need less fuel!"

Ben sat back, unimpressed. "What does it matter? We've only got eight minutes left!"

"There has to be something we can do!"

"I don't intend to waste my last minutes doing manual labor!" Ben spat.

"You're gonna sit around waiting to die? If we can lighten the load, the fuel might be enough to get us to land," Kyle concluded.

"It's a waste of time, Kyle."

"Well then, it'll be the last time we ever waste. We can at least make the effort," Kyle said, reaching over to haul Ben to his feet. "Come on!"


Ben clearly didn't believe this would make enough of a difference, but pitched in anyway - and pitched out whatever presented itself. He'd balked when Kyle made to put the crate of exclusive Blue Ridge Columbian coffee and Harrods silk pyjamas Ben had brought with them as luxury baggage out the airlock, but really, it was hardly vital equipment under the circumstances. He would make Kyle pay back the seven thousand pounds he now owed Ben once they were safe on Earth.

Ben strongly suspected the shuttle wasn't going to make it. They'd jettisoned everything possible, but were still overweight. "Dump this, like!" Kyle commanded as he pulled the small cart from its place.

"This? Wake up, Kyle! It only weighs about half a kilo. That won't make any difference."

"Just do it, like!"

The smoothe-chested amateur matched stares with Kyle for a second, then started towards the airlock.

This recent uppity behavior was going to be punished when all this was over.


Back on the flight deck, Ben was scrounging for something more to jettison as Kyle checked their position. "We've got about four minutes fifty seconds before we crash, but we're only five minutes away from landing!" he groaned. "We've got to lose more weight!"

"I've lost quite enough weight at the moment, thank you very much," Ben sniffed. "I'm down to a nice ninety-two kilos, thank you very much."

Kyle stood there for a moment, staring at him. It wasn't something that would have normally occurred to him, but now it had been brought up, it couldn't be easily banished.

"What the hell do you think you're looking at?" Ben snorted. With adrenaline-fueled sobriety he suddenly realized what was suggested, even as the seconds literally ticked away. "You can't seriously expect me to sacrifice myself! How do you know it would even help?"

"That's ninety-two less kilos to shift," Kyle pointed out. "I'd do the same for you!"

"Then do so!" Ben spat, annoyed Kyle had not already done so.

"But I only weigh seventy!" Kyle protested. "That's 22 kilos less than you! There's more chance of me making it than you!"

"All right," Ben said nobly. "Come and see me off," he said and moved out towards the airlock hatch...

...and at the last second flung himself at Kyle, knocking him to the deck.

Ben managed to straddle Kyle and (trying not to enjoy the homoerotic thoughts bubbling through his mind) used his superior weight to keep the younger man down while he reached out for the hatch. When he had it open, Kyle shoved Ben, hard, spending him sprawling through into the airlock. But then Ben was on top of him again, grasping him around the waist, hauling him into the airlock as well and wrestling him down. Trying to get free again, Kyle rolled them over and over until they were both out of the airlock again.

In desperation, Ben reached out for the eject button in the hope that Kyle would be sucked out into space before Ben was, and he'd be enough to shut the hatch in time.

Alas, Ben was never fully aware of Kyle's capabilities and regularly underestimated. Kyle swung his uninjured right arm and hit Ben in his perfect - if glass - jaw. The millionaire playboy slumped to the floor as Kyle stood, breathing heavily. He felt like kicking Ben, but restrained himself - they were both running out of time. If there was too little fuel left, they were finished anyway.

Sweat dripping from his forehead, Kyle dragged Ben's limp form towards the airlock. Ben was crying with fear, gripped with fear of death... and sacrifice.


Feeling the shuttle shift and gain momentum, Kyle threw himself into the chair and took the controls, managing to guide the shuttle into a landing outside the Mermaid Wine Bar where Katie, Barry Tuck and Shakey Jake were waiting for him. The shuttle shook as it clanged into the deserted carpark.

The hatch opened and Kyle marched out. "Get me a drink, you sexist bastard," he ordered Tuck.

Katie was the first to move after him. "Just hang on a moment," she called after Kyle's receding back. "What about Ben?"

Kyle didn't break step. "What about him?"

"What about...? Well, where is he, for a start?"

"Ben didn't make it," he said, concentrating on what he was doing. He might have been deliberately trying to avoid facing Katie, or any or all of them, but somehow he didn't give that impression.

Katie's face fell in horror. "You mean, he's dead? How?" she demanded. When Kyle didn't answer, she walked over and forced the man to face him. "How, Kyle? How did it happen?"


Kyle couldn't do it. He couldn't, even though he had dragged Ben into the airlock, even though it was either him or both of them.

Ben stood there with the tracks of tears on his face, wanting, wanting so much to live, but knowing he was doomed. Just when Kyle was about speak, Ben took the decision out of his hands. With a jerk faster than Kyle could move, Ben slammed his hand down on the door button. The airlock door shut in Kyle's face, with Ben on the other side of it. Then the lock cycled through, and he was gone in a glitter of frozen fog, like a mist of tears.

Kyle clung to the door, stunned. Then he shook himself - the shuttle still needed piloting, there were no spare moments to waste. No more sacrifices to waste. He stumbled to the flight deck, as unheeded tears trickled down his face.

"Them Trods'll pay, my friend, they'll pay," he growled as he urged the shuttle towards Earth.


When Kyle finished the story, looking the others squarely in the eyes, Barry Tuck gasped in shocked astonishment. Katie found himself unable to speak. Shakey Jake raised an eyebrow.

"He did what?" spluttered Katie.

"He sacrificed his life to save me," Kyle lied, snatching a bottle of cheap cider and downing it one go. "You lot, you slow or somthin? The shuttle was overweight. Ben jumped out the airlock just in time."

Katie backed away from Kyle as if she couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Just like that? I take it you got rid of the luggage as well?"

"Course I did, like! We chucked that first, if it's any consolation! It didn't help. Life's like that!"


The shuttle lurched as it fought the gravity of Earth, and Kyle hissed angrily as he was thrown against a storage compartment. "He's going to get me!" Ben sobbed from the airlock. "He's going to get me! Oh God, where is he? Get me and get it over! No, don't get me! I want to live! I'm miserable but I want to live! I I must live! I HAVE A DEGREE!"

Ben suddenly took out his hip flash and smashed it on the airlock hatch, turning it into a kind of broken glass and metal dagger. Kyle's eyes drew wide with astonishment as Ben leapt from the alcove, thrusting the makeshift weapon at his former friend's chest.

At the last moment, Kyle grabbed Ben's arm, twisted it and forced the jagged edges into Ben's own smooth chest. As he wasn't wearing a shirt, the weapon surged upwards under his ribcage. Ben Chatham collapsed with a small sound, toppling backwards into the airlock.

Kicking Ben's legs through the portal with enough force to make his back twinge, Kyle shut the door and cycled the lock.


"I can't believe the Trods were so afraid of Ben they'd try to kill him!" Katie mused.

"You'd be surprised at what people will do, when they're desperate enough," Kyle said later, when the Mermaid Wine Bar had been drunk dry in memory of Benjamin James Sebastian Chatham.

Shakey Jake approached him, his lip trembling. "Suppose that's what yer call the only logical solution, right?"

"Just how hard did you try to save Ben?" asked Barry Tuck with woozy cunning.

"About as hard as I did to save meself, like," he replied. "How hard would you have tried?"

"Kyle," said Katie defensively, "wouldn't let Ben down if he could help it."

"Isn't that his problem, not mine?" the barman retorted.

Kyle went to the kitchen, ostensibly to search for another wine bottle but actually searching for the sharpest knife he could find. The odious Tuck was already suspicious. Luckily only he and the other two knew enough about Ben's habits to doubt his story. Getting rid of those three would ensure no one ever connected Kyle to the failed diplomatic trip, as Ben had made sure no one knew Kyle was accompanying him aboard the shuttle. He'd wanted all the glory for himself. He'd have hated the idea of Kyle or the rest of Operation: Delta outshining him.

Well, Ben old mate, Kyle thought as he returned to the wine bar, knife in hand, it's the least I can do...

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