A Colossus


Note: Heartfelt thanks to kiwisue and Unnatural Blonde who gave me pointers, pointed out a lot of problems and gave me some excellent advice, most of which I took (the fact that this has more holes in it than gorgonzola can be blamed on the fact that I didn't take all of it - i.e. the failings are of course down to me). Oh, yes -- Unnatural Blonde also pointed out that it needs a "hot and sweaty" sex scene -- I only wish it had one; sadly I was not up to the task. Will try to do better next time.

I don't own anyone or anything, and absolutely no disrespect is intended to the real person to whom I refer -- and who really was a colossus.

"Oi, see that, mate?"


Doyle put his book down and crossed the room -- automatically stepping over the occupant of the hearthrug -- to peer over the top of his glasses and Bodie's shoulder at the screen, where the words Colossus cracks codes once more appeared below the familiar banner of the BBC News website.

"That's Bletchley Park, that is -- the Old Man's very first posting, according to him. Must 've been all of eighteen."

Doyle grunted, willing to indulge Bodie's eternal fascination with the infinite sea of snippets and odd bits of news available on the net, and with finding (or inventing) interconnections between them.

"Key moment in the history of computing -" Bodie looked up, realised Doyle was less than enthralled, and went on more sternly "not to mention saving all our bacon by cracking the Enigma codes, all right?"

"Ah." Light began to dawn. "One of his, was it?"

"No. But one that got him going, apparently. I've looked it up," Bodie concluded with satisfaction, "and they reckon it was one of the things that got 'im on his way. Which turned out handy for us, didn't it?"

Doyle grinned, and shifted from leaning on the armrest of Bodie's chair to leaning on Bodie, sliding his other arm round to hold him close and rubbing against Bodie's cheek with his own. Bodie's arms came up to hug Doyle's across his chest, and both were silent for a moment.

Both were silent, waiting for Cowley's response, Doyle almost vibrating with the ill-concealed desire to insist on an answer and Bodie refusing utterly to betray his feelings by so much as a word or a glance. Seemingly absorbed in arcane calculations of risk and counter-risk, Cowley let the moment grow longer until -- apparently remembering that his agents were still there in front of him awaiting a word to decide their future employment -- he came to himself and gestured impatiently for them to sit down. Still silent, he reached into the bottom drawer of his desk. Their eyes met for a moment, silently exchanging

"What's the old bastard up to?"

"Search me, mate."

before they both turned back to face Cowley once more.

"Security at the conference was...quite adequate, very satisfactory. I should have been most disappointed to have any disruption inconvenience Dr. Carlton and her colleagues. A job well and neatly done."

As indeed it had been; a small but single-minded contingent of would-be disruptors had been shepherded firmly and unobtrusively into the arms of the Met.

Cowley paused, and Bodie and Doyle shared another glance of increasing bewilderment and frustration. This was not the response they had been expecting to the quiet announcement that Cowley might feel he had cause to re-consider their security status on the grounds that their relationship had taken an unanticipated turn -- and that they had no intention of turning it back. Sir.

"I don't suppose you gave any thought to what the conference was actually about? No. Occupied with other matters, rightly so. Developments in computational theory may be fascinating stuff to the right mind, but to some of us -- and to the individuals you apprehended with those old-fashioned explosives earlier today -- it's the potential military and security applications that loom largest. Still, you may recall my mentioning that I had met Dr. Carlton before. A considerable number of years before, in point of fact -- at the start of the War. And that there was someone missing at the conference -- someone who by all accounts should have been its foremost participant..."

Cowley sighed, then straightened in his chair with a slight shake of the head and, his customary briskness resumed, poured three respectable measures of whisky. He did not drink, however, but leaned forward a little across the desk with the air of a man about to impart important information. Still utterly in the dark -- and not liking it -- Bodie and Doyle nevertheless took heart from the fact that they were still in Cowley's office rather than half-way to the street and prepared to listen.

"Turing. Alan Turing. You've not heard the name, I dare say, but we'd likely none of us be where we are but for him. He was mebbe ten, eleven years my senior. A genius, and I don't mean that in any loose sense of the word --" Cowley warmed to his subject -- "the man dealt in -- no, revelled in solving problems in the kind of mathematics most people can't even begin to understand... I may have a certain facility for calculation where people are concerned, so they tell me, but in calculation of the mathematical kind I'm no better off than most. But he was in his element there at the Park. I was eighteen, my first posting -- just a year into the war, and he'd been there since the day after war was declared in '39. Literally a day after -- seems he'd walked right in and promptly proved himself indispensable." Cowley looked from one to the other, and seemed to find their blank faces hardly adequate to the significance of what he was telling them. "Don't you realise he practically changed the course of the war single-handed? Oh, he did that, he did indeed. Head of Hut 8 -- they were the ones cracking the Germans' naval signals. Ach, you must have heard of the Enigma machine, at least! He was the man who built a machine capable of cracking the Enigma code -- I walked in on him one morning, a civilian in an army jacket bending over this -- this device, this monstrous half-built contraption looking as if it had been built by demented seabirds with an obsession for geometry and no concept of nests. Waving a soldering iron and looking like he hadn't slept in a week. But happy, damn happy. I don't mean laughing...focussed. He was focussed.

I admired him a great deal, you know. Not just a desk man -- quite the athlete, by all accounts -- but utterly devoted to his work. Didn't connect much with people, but he was kind. Courteous. Barely noticed me, of course, I wasn't much more than a dogsbody in those days, but he gave everybody, from first to last, pretty much the same consideration -- and ignored everybody the same, come to that, when he was up to his ears in his work which was most of the time.

Well naturally I went where I was posted in those days, and I wasn't at Bletchley Park for all that long. Long enough so I never forgot him, though, and when he died...

I found out a little more about him whenever I could, I suppose it was by way of becoming an enigma I couldn't leave alone...all that genius, and all that courage...he wouldn't lie, not even to get his country to give his genius free rein. His country that should have been grateful to him." Cowley paused again, his gaze distant, before taking a sip of whisky and resuming his account. " Always strong-minded, even from a boy...." There was a moment of uncharacteristic hesitancy, so fleeting that only those accustomed to his usual decisive manner would have noticed it. " Seems there was a lad at his school a year or two his senior, who he was most likely in love with...perhaps the only other one there as bright as he was himself, and a great friend besides...this lad, Christopher, was by way of being an inspiration to the boy. But he died scarcely more than a child himself, as I see it now -- eighteen years old, just won a science scholarship to Cambridge, the two of them would have been students there together...tuberculosis was a deadly disease in those days."

Cowley sighed again, and glanced up with a hint of a smile. "But of course this is all ancient history now, isn't it? Don't worry, I don't intend to haver on all afternoon and I haven't the time to waste in any case. But the thing is, I'd likely have had you lads babysitting the man himself this past week, if he'd been alive today -- he'd have been an old man now, of course, but with that incredible mind I don't doubt nothing would have stopped him. Ah, but our green and pleasant -- his own country, that he'd had such a hand in saving our
nation" (and for once, just for once, the word sounded bitter on Cowley's lips) "ruled in those days that who he loved made him not just a security risk but a criminal worse than a collaborator. When we owed him so much. So many lives. They say the work at Bletchley Park took a good eighteen months off the war. Which means he probably saved my life, come to that, considering where I was in '45..."

"'45, sir?"

"Another story. But there you have the why of it, if you like -- what first set me to thinking differently about the matter. Turing was one of the bravest men I've ever met, though I never realised it at the time. He never knuckled under, never -- never gave up on his work and on his life, in spite of everything. It was only when he knew there was no avoiding a public scandal...I rather think he couldn't bear what it would do to his mother, poor woman. He certainly made sure to make it look like an accident for her sake. I always admired that about him, his courage, as well as his brilliance.

It's not for me -- for any of us, Doyle -- to pick and choose the law, but even then I knew it was wrong; a law that would put a man in jail, lose him his job -- lose his mind to the nation, if it comes to that -- and all for who he loves."

"Sometimes wish he had fired us on the spot, though" Bodie went on as if he hadn't paused. "Never thought we'd still be around to tell the tale now. Glad we are. That we both are." He felt Doyle's smile against his cheek.

"You and me both, sunshine. To be honest, I reckon the Old Man would've had too strong a sense of justice even without the Turing thing. But maybe it just changed the way he saw a few things, at that. Otherwise finding out about us might have been a bit too close to take with 'is customary calm and equanimity, don't you think?"

Bodie straightened up and swivelled the chair away from the screen, brushing his lips against Doyle's in a quick kiss before pushing himself to his feet.

"Come on, mate. Let me shut this down, an' we can go and enjoy a bit of calm and equanimity ourselves, eh? Fancy a turn on the Heath with the beast?" The beast in question, hearing herself referred to, raised her head from the rug and thumped a hopeful tail.

"You're on. May as well make the most of the sun while it's shining -- 's a beautiful day out."

-- THE END --

December 2007

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