Characters: Claudia, Abby, Nick, Stephen, Connor, Ryan, Lester
Pairings/Ships: Nick/Claudia, Abby/Stephen and Abby/Connor.
Spoilers: Some from 1x01-1x05. Set in an imaginary larger gap between 1x05 and 1x06.
Disclaimer: I don’t own them....Bugger... (although if anyone at Impossible Pictures wants to offer me a job that’d be great...)
Summary: Abby is feeling increasingly frustrated with Stephen’s behaviour towards her, wondering if he cares for her as much as she hopes. Claudia is feeling increasingly frustrated by her lack of field experience, wondering if the others see her as a hindrance. Both problems pale into insignificance however when a large predator is on the loose and they find themselves lost and running for their lives.
Nick had very little love for the glass and metallic structure that housed the Home Office department he was currently liaising with. It was cold and clinical, uncaring and uninviting. He knew he shouldn’t let it get to him, but something about this environment always put him on edge and making him defensive and short tempered. It always gave him the impression that the people in expensive suits, like Lester, who barely stepped foot outside this building, had no real clue as to what was going on out there and were, quite frankly, not interested in finding out beyond making sure that it caused them no trouble.
And even Claudia wasn’t here right now to humanize things somewhat.
Still, at least Captain Ryan didn’t exactly look at home here either. Although the Special Forces team had a base of operations elsewhere, it seemed that Lester preferred them, whenever possible, to use the briefing room and communications facilities in the lower levels of this building. He seemed to like having them under his watchful gaze, much to Ryan’s apparent annoyance even if his professionalism prevented him from actually saying anything.
When Nick had explained what he wanted done, Ryan had looked at him like he was talking nonsense. Even Nick had to admit that it was a hell of a lot of work for potentially no gain, but he and Stephen had taken the time to lay out the possible benefits and Ryan had found it hard to disagree with the fact that being able to predict where anomalies would appear would be a huge tactical advantage.
As far as possible, Ryan had wanted to use existing CCTV systems to monitor the eight by two square mile area where Nick believed the next anomaly was likely to appear. Setting up surveillance of their own would take time and could arouse suspicion amongst the general populous and Lester would want to avoid that at all costs. So the communications specialists had spent the last hour tapping into existing feeds and were now plotting them on a map, finding the black spots so that Ryan could send men out to set up the few extra cameras they would require. Even then they couldn’t possibly cover every square inch of land and they would have to send small teams of men out to covertly patrol the areas in question.
“How long do you think we’re going to have to keep this up for?” Ryan asked, frowning at the map in front of him, clearly still not liking the size of the area they were dealing with.
“Well,” Stephen said, “The readings seem to indicate that the anomaly in Epping Forest will likely be gone by morning and then, if there’s going to be another one...”
He looked at Nick for confirmation.
“Five days? A week at most?”
Nick nodded in agreement.
Ryan sighed heavily. Clearly that wasn’t what he wanted to hear. Nick couldn’t blame him really. Keeping a twenty four hour watch on the site of the next possible anomaly was a time consuming and complicated process with no guarantee of success.
“And you can’t narrow the area down anymore than that?” Ryan asked, prodding at the map.
“No,” Nick said, suspecting that was the answer Ryan had expected and that his question was more wishful thinking than anything else, “If we cut it down anymore than this then we risk excluding an area it could appear in. If we want to get some accurate data to predict from then we can’t miss this next anomaly. Who knows when we’ll get another chance like this?”
“If there’s a next anomaly,” Ryan pointed out.
“Yeah, ‘if’,” Nick conceded. He didn’t apologise for the vagaries of his theory. Ryan was bright enough to know the score even if he didn’t like it.
The next twenty minutes or so continued to be an exercise in negotiation and compromise. Ryan was right, they couldn’t reasonably watch every single square inch of land in Nick’s target area and they discussed – sometimes heatedly – what would be the easiest and most prudent places to watch. Stephen was all for virtually ignoring any heavily populated area – after all if the anomaly appeared in a residential area then someone was bound to report it – and so suggested concentrating their efforts on the quieter areas where things could more easily go undetected. Ryan on the other hand did not like the idea of happily letting a member of the public wander across an anomaly if there was a chance of keeping it under wraps instead. Whether that was an issue of security or public safety he wouldn’t discuss. Nick suspected it was a bit of both.
Their only interruptions came in the guise of one of the sergeants who Ryan had instructed to keep him updated on the set up of the surveillance operations. The sergeant’s reports became so commonplace that by the seventh or eighth time Ryan barely acknowledged his arrival, choosing instead to continue trying to explain to Nick why they couldn’t just put up meters to detect magnetic field fluctuations in the areas where they were unable to place cameras, saying that it would take too long to set up and would arouse too many suspicions. The sergeant however seemed unable to wait, standing patiently for just a moment before walking right in between Ryan and Nick, bringing their discussion to an abrupt halt.
“Sorry, sir,” the man said, although his apology was quite perfunctory, “But we might have a problem. Delta team have missed their hourly check in.”
Stephen frowned, a hint of concern on his face, “Wasn’t that the team out in Epping Forest with Abby?”
The sergeant nodded. “When they were overdue we tried to contact them but we got no response.”
“Interference maybe,” Stephen suggested, looking for the reasonable explanation rather than the dramatic, “The anomaly somehow affecting the transmission?”
Ryan shook his head, “No, we’ve tested all the equipment thoroughly. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t work.”
Without further comment he headed off into the adjoining communications suite, Nick and Stephen following. Ryan marched straight over to the appropriate desk, the man in charge of it making room for the captain as he picked up a spare headset.
“Delta team, this is Captain Ryan, please respond.”
Hissing static was his only reply. Nick suspect that Ryan hadn’t truly expected them to suddenly respond just because he was the one asking, he just always liked to check things for himself.
“Delta team,” he asked again, “Please be advised you have missed your check in mark. Report.”
Ryan put the headset down and stepped back, a deep frown on his face.
“Well?” Stephen prompted a little irritably when the captain said nothing more.
Ryan glanced at them, trying and not succeeding to hide a grim look.
“We’d better get another team out there.”
Before her involvement in this project, Claudia had never been knocked unconscious. This was now her second time and it seemed that it didn’t get any better. Although, she realised as she opened her eyes and saw the cracked LCD clock in front of her, at least this time she hadn’t gone temporarily blind.
Thank heavens for small mercies.
It took a few moments for her swimming brain to orientate itself but eventually she realised that the SUV had come to a stop on its roof and she was being held in her seat by the seatbelt which was more than a little uncomfortable. She chose to ignore the nausea jolting through her stomach, deciding that it was the least of her worries.
The glass in the side window was shattered and was probably the cause of the still slowly bleeding cut on the side of her head, visible in the distorted reflection of the cracked rear view mirror. She looked a little longer, pushing aside hair sticky with blood, squinting in the dim light. It didn’t seem that bad. Only superficial but she’d probably need stitches though.
A more powerful surge of nausea hit her when she moved and she slumped back in the seat, closing her eyes whilst it passed, repeating over and over in her mind that she was not going to be sick. All she could hear was her own breathing and the rhythmic creaking of the battered car. The world outside was deathly still.
In the darkness, seatbelt digging painful into her chest and abdomen, she tried to take her mind off the churning of her stomach by recalling what had happened, working backwards in her head until she remembered how this had all begun.
Her eyes opened with a start.
“Abby?” she said, her voice coming out hoarse and pained, barely louder than a whisper.
She swallowed as well as she could, ignoring the taste of blood before trying again, louder this time.
The headlights must have smashed on the way down and her only illumination came from the sickly green glow of the dashboard. It took her a moment to co-ordinate her fumbling fingers well enough to reach across to the other woman. She followed the line of Abby’s arm up, across her shoulder and onto her neck, prodding for a pulse.
For a moment she could feel nothing and she almost panicked before forcing herself to calm down and rethink. Maybe she just wasn’t in the right place. She walked her fingers a little further up Abby’s neck, pressing firmly into the crease between her throat and her jaw line.
There. A steady throbbing under her fingertips.
A sudden groan emanating from the other woman confirmed that she was indeed alive and made Claudia start slightly in the silence.
“Just...Just stay there okay,” she said after taking a moment to calm herself, realising only after she spoke just how stupid that sounded, “I’ll get you out.”
Part of her questioned the wisdom of that. Whatever had attacked them may be still out there and Abby could be badly hurt and moving her may only make things worse. But she liked even less the idea of staying in the crashed vehicle. It might not be safe. If they’d ruptured the fuel line there was a chance of explosion. Besides, they couldn’t just sit here, wait and hope someone found them. How long had they been here anyway? Hours could have passed by now. It was safe to assume that the Special Forces unit had been unable to secure the creature. If she considered the worst case scenario that the unit had been entirely wiped out and no one had reported the incident, just how long exactly would it be before they missed their next call in and Ryan sent help? And how long would it take the help to get here? No, they had to do something themselves.
Claudia braced herself as best she could, feet either side of the pedals, one hand on the flat of the steering wheel before she dared undo the seatbelt. It wasn’t quite enough though and she still slumped forward with a painful jolt, the horn blaring for a moment as she landed on it.
She sat there in alarmed silence, wondering if the creature had heard that.
She reasoned that if it had then staying here any longer than necessary was a bad idea.
Turning herself into a sitting position, her still slightly muddled brain took a few goes before it managed to figure out how to work the upside down door handle. The door wouldn’t budge. She tried pushing at it with her shoulder but even with halfway decent leverage and it simply wouldn’t move.
She supposed she could crawl out of the window, but the jagged glass around its edge would cut her to bits, not exactly a good option.
In frustration and rising panic she rattled the door a few times but still nothing happened.
Forcing herself to be calm again, she sat back taking a few deep breaths and giving herself a chance to think.
Which was when she noticed something.
Somehow, the central locking had activated on the way down. Maybe she’d knocked it. Maybe the electronics had gone haywire. Either way the small lever was definitely in the locked position. Reaching forward, putting the slight shake in her fingers down to shock rather than anything more serious, she tried to push the lever down but it was bent out of shape and wouldn’t move.
She glanced around, hoping for inspiration.
The dashboard. It was lit.
The electronics were still working.
She reached across and twisted and pulled the keys out of the ignition, plunging herself into further darkness, only the moonlight filtering through the trees providing any illumination at all now. She could neither see nor remember which button on the key fob was the correct one and so she tried them all, pressing them firmly one by one.
Only one choice left then. She shifted herself closer to the door, carefully brushing aside some of the glass so she had a place to rest her hand. Her other arm she snaked out of the window, her jacket catching in the jagged glass edge more than once before her searching fingers reached the lock. Putting the keys in, she turned them and heard the wonderful sound of the bolts releasing.
She’d added a few extra scratches to her arm but it was more than worth it to be able to get out of there.
With the car roof crumpled slightly, the top of the door scrapped along the ground and she had to push it hard to open it fully. She crawled out in a most undignified manner, allowing herself just a moment to sit still and get her bearings in a world that was now thankfully the right way up. It really was cold out here now, she realised, watching the vapour from her breath glide away into the darkness.
Not daring to wait any longer than was necessary for the worst of the nausea to pass once more, she pushed herself to her feet, thankful that apart from the cut on her head she was little more than battered and bruised. High heel boots she realised in hindsight had been a mistake that day. Still, it could have been worse. She could have been wearing a skirt.
Walking on unsteady feet and uneven ground, she went as quickly as she could round to Abby’s side of the car.
Pulling open that door too she knelt down, shaking Abby’s shoulder as firmly as she dared. If Abby was too badly hurt to move then she didn’t know what she was going to do.
“Abby?” she asked again, unable to hide the urgency in her voice.
“Yeah, I’m awake,” the other woman muttered, still clearly a bit groggy but forcing herself to open her eyes anyway.
She frowned as she looked around her.
“Am I upside down or are you?”
“You are,” Claudia said with a slight smile, glad to see her awake and lucid, “And we have to get you out of there. Anything hurt?”
“Everything,” Abby grumbled.
“Okay, anything badly hurt?”
“I don’t think so.”
She wiggled experimentally in her seat, grimacing a bit as she did so.
“Abby?” Claudia questioned.
The other woman shook her head, “Just help me out of here, all right?”
It took a bit of careful manoeuvring but with Claudia’s help eventually Abby managed to get herself free without falling on her head, and then slid out of the car. Like Claudia she seemed to have sustained a few cuts from the broken glass but that was the least of her worries. More importantly she was limping quite badly but Claudia had a hazy recollection of her falling before she even got in the vehicle. It seemed that perhaps Abby had got away from the actual crash even more lightly than she had.
Or perhaps not.
Abby got herself over to a nearby log and sat on it, gingerly leaning forward to check her ankle but stopping abruptly as she winced in pain, her breath suddenly ripped from her. Claudia knelt down in front of her, holding Abby’s arm reassuringly until the colour began to return to her suddenly deathly pale cheeks.
“Don’t worry,” Claudia soothed, “It’s probably only a cracked rib. Seatbelts can do that in car accidents.”
“‘Only a cracked rib’?” Abby queried, looking sceptical. Cracking your rib wasn’t something she could brush aside quite so easily.
“Well, okay relatively speaking” Claudia pointed out, “It could have been much worse.”
Abby glanced around her to the battered wreckage of the vehicle, complete with claw marks down the side, and couldn’t help but agree.
Claudia meanwhile picked up where Abby left off, lifting up the edge of her trousers, pushing down her socks and checking her ankle. There were some signs of bruising and it was a little puffy but didn’t seem to be all that bad.
“I think it’s just a sprain.”
Abby smiled slightly, gallows humour, “Oh so you’re a doctor as well as a rally driver now?”
Claudia smiled a little too, “Only a basic first aid course I’m afraid. Pity Nick isn’t here. He’s seen ER and everything.”
Abby laughed for just a short moment before it made her grimace and she squeezed her eyes tightly shut, waiting for the sharp pain to subsided.
“Look, I don’t think you should move,” Claudia said with clear concern.
“We can’t stay here,” Abby pointed out, “No one knows where we are.”
“When the team doesn’t report in they’ll send another unit out to check on them,” Claudia reasoned, “They’ll find us.”
“Before something else does?”
There was silence for a moment, Claudia not having an answer for that. She was just trying to muster up something encouraging and sensible when Abby frowned.
“Do you hear that?”
Claudia frowned too, looking around. She could hear something, a small tinkling noise that she was barely able to make out. It sounded like a mobile phone.