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Mag7 Bingo Challenge 2017

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Ezra smiled as he looked down from the bluff, saluting the others. He still didn't know what had possessed him to turn back and save the others when he could have carried on riding towards his next destination and a new mark. He was a conman, a gambler, spinning lies in to a spider's web of deceit. These men were nothing to him and he'd never before had the urge to stop and look back at the shadows racing up behind him. He'd always had his focus on the horizon ahead, his eyes raised to the sky, looking for that moment when he would fly so high and have all he dreamed; riches beyond his wildest imaginings.

Except Ezra had a very vivid imagination.

The children had told him about the gold mine but it was a bust - played out decades before - and the tiny amount left would be expensive to mine and wouldn't cover the cost of the bullets he'd use protecting these people and defending the mine. Yet after only a moment's hesitation he had turned back upon hearing the gunshots and cannon fire, possibly towards his own death.

Later, once the bullets had stopped flying and the enemy was beaten, Ezra had looked at the ragtag group of men.

Each of them was so different from the others he could see no reason why they would want to stick together, but he imagined he could feel some cosmic force connecting them, like seven parts making up a whole. At least that was the lie he told himself as they rode back towards the small frontier town where they'd all come together. Later still, after he retired to a plain but comfortable room above the saloon, he lay down on his bed and let the lies drop away.

His thoughts turned to the mysterious, dark-clad Chris Larabee, recalling the way the light glinted off sun-kissed hair. He focused on the green eyes, running hot and cold, giving glimpses of a tragic past and intriguing future. Larabee wasn't a gambler at the tables but he played the odds daily, fingers as agile with a gun as Ezra's were with a pack of cards. Ezra had seen that spark of interest in his eyes though, one Ezra had read on other men's faces in the past, as if their kind could read each other and see beneath the masculine layers to a kind of want that most considered an abomination.

Ezra smiled up at the yellowing, cracked ceiling, letting the truth have its say. Chris Larabee intrigued him. Perhaps, at any other time or place, Ezra would have ridden away as fast as his horse could carry him as nothing but trouble had ever come from such desires, but here and now he knew he wanted to take a gamble.

The world was full of lies, and he loved weaving the webs almost as much as he enjoyed picking apart the lies to reveal the gold nuggets of truth, and Chris Larabee was a perfect challenge for both.

END
 

Chapter Text

The money called to him, like embers smoldering in his thoughts, slowly building heat and catching fire. Ten thousand dollars. Passion, greed, avarice, insanity. Call it by whatever name, he thought he had put that monster to sleep after he confronted his mother and basically told her he would rather be poor and with these six men than sitting high and rich on some gambling boat on the Mississippi, all alone. They'd given him the stability he'd never had growing up; a sense of belonging, of family. They used his talents for good rather than to con honest people out of their hard earned money.

Not that he was averse to taking money off a man stupid enough to gamble away his trail pay - as long as the only one losing was the man in question and not a wife and children living in fear and poverty. There was no victim here. No starving child or impoverished wife.

Ten thousand dollars could buy him an expensive suite on a paddle steamer and a seat at any game on-board. He could turn ten thousand dollars into twenty thousand, or into fifty thousand. He could become rich beyond his wildest imaginings, fulfilling every dream and ambition since his very first con.

They all had their daemons riding them, and Ezra could see his own daemon staring back at him in the mirror, pulling him closer to the edge, inflaming his mind with possibilities. His stared hard at himself, the heat coiling in his belly out of want and desire, daring him to reach for the fire and burn with new ambition. He let it whisper its poison into his brain until he could no longer see or think of anything but the money, until he lost his mind and stuffed every pack into his shirt, mind fixed on reaching his horse, of riding into a new life of wealth.

Halfway across the packed street a man brushed into him and Ezra caught a reflection off a glass eye. He thought of Chris and the others in danger, of losing the only people who had ever truly given a damn whether he lived or died, and the fire raging inside him died as if hit by iced water, sending the monster back to sleep as he turned back to help his friends.

END
 

Chapter Text

Five drabbles that complete the top line of my Mag7Bingo card:

Title: Lies and Half Truths
Characters: Josiah
Notes: Prompt: Josiah: Lies

There are lies and there are half-truths. As a preacher Josiah has heard them all but as he hears each confession he knows he must show compassion and give each sinner a chance to make amends and start their lives anew. He listens and tries not to judge, but he freely admits he is only human after all. He tries to direct, to lecture, or simply to offer a word of warning or advice. Josiah knows he cannot change anyone unless they are willing but he hopes his words reach them, if only to save their immortal souls from damnation.

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Title: Swords and Guns
Characters: Buck and Nathan
Notes: Prompt: Buck and Nathan: Guns

Nathan had been a slave, and no slave could carry a gun. When his master needed a fencing partner Nathan learned fast. Steel became his weapon of choice, and he practised daily with knives and swords until he was as fast and accurate as any gunslinger. Buck only knew guns. He wasn't as fast as Chris or as accurate as Vin but he could hold his own in a fight. Teaching a beginner to fence would be hard especially with only days to learn what Nathan had spent years learning. To save his friend, he knew he had to try.

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Title: Sibling Smiles
Characters: JD and Buck
Notes: Prompt: Secret siblings

Buck always wondered why he and JD had got on so well, right from the very beginning, looking upon the younger man like a little brother. It was a shock when they was sitting round a campfire one night and JD started to talk of his errant father. Buck had know of that man from his mother, before he found gold and took his riches back East. Buck knew he favored his mother in looks and on the following day he studied JD, seeing the similarities between them that might come from a shared father. They had the same smile.

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Title: Go West, Young Man
Characters: JD
Notes: Prompt: JD: Getting lost in a book

JD's love of books had come from his mother. He had spent many a glorious hour lost within the pages of a dime store novel, reading of heroic deeds out West, of gunslingers, Indians, and cowboys. When his mother died leaving him penniless and alone JD knew could either find work in a factory or follow his dream and head West. The stagecoach fare cost him what little money his mother had left for him but as he stepped off in a rough frontier town he knew he'd made the right choice, beginning a whole new chapter of his life.

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Title: Shame
Characters: Josiah
Notes: Prompt: Josiah: Confusion

The whiskey fogged his mind, numbing his thoughts and senses yet he could never escape the harshness of his youth and the pain of his sister, Hannah. The memories tore through him, dragging up the dirt of the past and leaving him raging and belligerent towards an uncaring father. When he awoke the following day the fog rarely cleared, leaving him confused yet ashamed of bad deeds and words hurled while in Pan's embrace. Each morning he swore he would not touch another drink, putting the past behind him so he could begin his life afresh. Every night he failed.

END
 

Chapter Text

Title: Belief
Characters: Rain
Rating/Category: GEN
Word Count: 100
Notes/Warnings: Prompt: Rain: Belief

Rain believed in the goodness of others but not to the point where she blindly accepted a stranger into the lives of her people without having a knife to hand, ready to protect them if that person turned out bad. She believed the Spirits of the Ancestors would provide for her people, just as they had given them all a safe haven in the village. Her belief was rewarded when seven good men rode in and saved them.

When she found Nathan hanging upside-down in one of her traps, she discovered she also believed in love at first sight.

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Title: Valuable Lesson
Characters: JD
Rating/Category: GEN
Word Count: 100
Notes/Warnings: Prompt: JD: Taught a lesson

He thought he was all grown up, often getting riled when Buck treated him like a kid. He was a man. Yet when Maddie dragged him into the livery, determined to show him a good time, JD felt so out of his depth, so young and afraid. He was almost grateful Casey walked in on them, apart from having her mad at him. He tried to explain it to Maddie later only to realize too late that he was nothing to her. It took getting shot to figure out why he hadn't wanted her. He was in love with Casey.

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Title: Rescue
Characters: Vin and Nathan
Rating/Category: GEN
Word Count: 200 (double drabble)
Notes/Warnings: Prompt: Vin and Nathan: Staying hidden

Nathan and Vin dropped down behind a boulder, breathing heavily from the exertion of running and dodging as they moved from cover to cover. So far the Greely Gang hadn't spotted them, focusing instead on Chris and the others who were trying to keep them pinned down and occupied. The Seven had the Greely Gang caught between them now, and Vin had a good shot of one of the men but knew he couldn't take it until they had freed the two women taken hostage by the gang. He and Nathan were both light on their feet, crossing the final piece of open ground swiftly while a volley of gunshots from Chris and the others kept the gang distracted. He watched as Nathan shushed the women, releasing their bonds, before quietly guiding them to safe place. Nathan ordered them to keep low, and to stay silent and well hidden.

Once Nathan was sure they would be safe from flying bullets he gave Vin a wide smile and nodded. It was time to join the fight, and with a whoop of delight, Vin took his first shot, bringing down one of the gang that had been creeping slowly up on Chris.

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Title: Silence
Characters: Nathan and Vin
Rating/Category: GEN
Word Count: 100
Notes/Warnings: Prompt: Nathan and Vin: Silence

Neither of them talked much about their past, preferring to share only when the whiskey had loosened their tongues and the words seemed necessary. They kept their secrets, hiding in the silence found in pockets around the crowded, noisy saloon. They listened to Ezra's tall tales as he distracted his opponents at the card table; to Josiah's sermons as he preached to those too drunk to care about the sin of debauchery, to JD's inane chatter, and Buck's reminiscing of the women he had loved. And when Chris grew broody, lost in his dark past, they kept his silence too.

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Title: Fire and Brimstone
Characters: Josiah and Vin
Rating/Category: GEN
Word Count: 100
Notes/Warnings: Prompt: Josiah and Vin: The Bible

Vin wasn't against religion. He recalled his Ma had a Bible, one of those large family heirlooms but it must have been sold off around the same time she died from putrid fever. Vin guessed he should be surprised he wasn't sold off too, though he did get handed around from stranger to stranger until he found a home with the The People. They had their beliefs and Josiah wasn't one to mock or cry damnation. Instead he'd sit with Vin, helping him learn to read by opening passages from the Bible. Fire and Brimstone. It was a good story.

END
 

Chapter Text

Title: Greenhorn
Characters: JD and Buck
Rating/Category: GEN
Word Count: 100
Notes/Warnings: Prompt: JD and Buck: Partners

When the kid jumped off that stagecoach Buck hadn't expected to give a damn. He didn't have time for a greenhorn who had learned all he knew about the Frontier from dime store novels. But women and kids had always been a soft spot for him so maybe he should have figured he'd end up taking JD under his wing. Hell, he nearly died protecting the kid and bore the scar from the Colonel's sword that almost cut him down for good. It took a few years but the kid was now a man, and he made a fine partner.

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Title: Twilight Years
Characters: Nettie
Rating/Category: GEN
Word Count: 100
Notes/Warnings: Prompt: Nettie: Alone for too long

There had been a boy. She'd been sweet on him and he'd come a-courting, bringing her wild flowers. She decided he was the only boy she'd ever marry and they set a date for the wedding. He died just two weeks before the day, thrown from a horse when a rattler sent it spooking. Another man came a-courting a few years later but he couldn't measure up to her first great love.

Now she was in her twilight years, alone, and as she looked back she wondered if she'd been just a little too quick to dismiss him.

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Title: Natural
Characters: Vin and JD
Rating/Category: GEN
Word Count: 100
Notes/Warnings: Prompt: Vin and JD: Horse riding

Vin considered himself a good rider. He'd been taught on Indian ponies, riding bareback for the most part until he left the village and rejoined the white man's world, and saddled up. When JD arrived in town all he carried apart from a suitcase was a saddle. He said he could ride and he proved himself real quick, able to handle any terrain with ease. JD was a natural, knowing how to get the best out of a horse without resorting to spurs or whips. If Chris ever got himself that horse ranch, JD would also have a place there.

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Title: Enough to Forgive
Characters: Casey
Rating/Category: GEN
Word Count: 100
Notes/Warnings: Prompt: Casey: Stronger than she looks

She lost her parents young, turning up on her Aunt Nettie's doorstep with a chest filled with clothing and personal possessions, scared and alone. Perhaps she needed Nettie's gruffness, her indomitable spirit, and fiery independence, using her aunt as a role model as she started a new life out West. With no men around she learned pretty quick how to do all the heavy chores, leaving behind the pretty dresses that were useless when doing man's work. By the time she met JD she was as fiery and as independent as Nettie, and strong enough to forgive JD for Maddie.

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Title: Pedestal
Characters: JD and Chris
Rating/Category: GEN
Word Count: 100
Notes/Warnings: Prompt: JD and Chris: Hero worship

Chris had seen the hero worship in JD's eyes from when they first met, saving Nathan from a hanging. He knew the kid was romanticizing him like a character from one of his books, putting him high on a pedestal. Chris knew he was fast and deadly with a gun, and he knew JD wanted to emulate him. Yet no matter how often Chris tried to tell him different, he knew in the end JD had to figure it out for himself. When the truth finally dawned, Chris hoped he didn't fall too far off that pedestal in JD's eyes.

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Title: Simply the Best
Characters: JD
Rating/Category: GEN
Word Count: 100
Notes/Warnings: Prompt: JD: Better than everyone else

When he arrived in the town he was full of romantic ideas of life out West. He wanted to be the best so he practiced knife throwing like Nathan only to lose out to a girl, became faster and more accurate with a gun like Chris and Buck but never fast enough. He tried to shoot a rifle like Vin but couldn't always make the shot. He tried to drink whiskey like Josiah but found it disgusting, play cards like Ezra and lost every time. Maybe he'd never be better than everyone else... but he was the best horse rider.

END
 

Chapter Text

Four Corners was just another frontier space station slightly off the regular shipping runs beyond the Kessel system. On the planet most of the habitable land was good for farming and grazing livestock but there was a lawlessness to it that made Chris uneasy. He wasn't afraid of a few rancher's hands shooting off their mouths and guns in the streets surrounding the small space port, but he'd been raised to know right from wrong. The Empire wasn't a strong presence this far out, for good or bad, leaving the cattle barons in charge, and Chris didn't like seeing people running scared, intimidated by those with a little more money, power, and position.

He tried not to get involved though, preferring to drift from system to system, planet to planet since the murder of his family.

The cantina was the usual rough house saloon with a few stranded aliens soaking up whatever brought them intoxication. His own brand of deadening came from a cheap Grefellian whiskey and he paused for a moment as a stray blaster bolt neatly severed the bottle where the neck curved into the main body of the bottle. Ignoring the slightly acrid smell of the melted glass he poured himself a drink and downed the amber liquid in one swallow, grimacing at the rough taste before heading towards the doors. His black cloak billowed in the breeze coming off the flat landscape that edged right up to the small space port. Another blaster bolt struck the prefabricated wall of the cantina close to his head, fusing the material in a radiating burn pattern, but Chris didn't flinch.

When a mag-sled rushed past with a man struggling in the back Chris almost turned away but he could sense the Force in the man's aura; another former Jedi like himself perhaps, but most likely just another person who was Force-sensitive and untrained. An even stronger sensation came from the opposite side of the dusty street and Chris found his eyes caught and held. No words were needed. The Force was strong in the rough-cut man standing on the boardwalk opposite and with a tilt of his head Chris acknowledged a brother and stepped into the street. They met halfway and walked together to the end of the town surrounding the port to where the people of this world had taken to burying rather than cremating or spacing their dead.

One small battle later and Chris was heading back to the cantina with Vin Tanner and Nathan Jackson by his side. Each had heard rumors of a growing Rebellion against the Empire but the fight had yet to reach the outer systems far from Coruscant and Alderaan. Lively music filled the place as they leaned against the bar, sharing a bottle of whiskey. It was the start of a friendship that drew in others, some Force-sensitive but all of them willing to bring peace to this frontier world.

END
 

Chapter Text

He thought he could never love again after the loss of Sarah. She had been everything to him and when she and Adam died he felt as if his heart and soul had been ripped out of his body leaving him feeling dead inside for the longest time. He'd traveled from town to town, not looking for trouble but letting it find him anyway. He had always been quick with a gun but practice made him faster and gave him a certain reputation that was both a hindrance and a help. Most steered clear of him, taking one look into his soulless eyes and high-tailing it out of wherever they found him. Only a few foolish men called him out and he never hesitated. Some were quicker on the draw by a fraction but it wasn't the speed but the accuracy that mattered.

He was deadly accurate as well as fast; a lethal combination that put a few men in the ground.

Another frontier town like so many others should have passed in a blur but maybe he'd slowly been coming out of the black cloak of grief, or maybe it was something about the scruffy man in an apron, wielding a broom, that lifted the shroud of death surrounding him. Curiosity called to him, along with an innate sense of right or wrong that didn't care to see an innocent man hanged for no good reason.

In the years that followed he dreamed of Sarah often but her face was beginning to blur in his memory as light banished the darkness of his grief. He could barely recall the sound of his little boy's voice calling him Papa. He didn't want to lose them, desperately trying to hold onto them both. At first he thought it was Mary's beauty and fire making the darkness recede but when Ella came back into his life it wasn't leaving Mary but watching Vin storm off after their bad words over Ella that brought the darkness hurtling back.

Ella was gone now. Vin had lost her trail at first but eventually he caught up with her, and once he did he sent word to Chris. They killed her together, burying her body in the desert where no one would ever find her, and as the sun set on that first moment of peace since Sarah and Adam's deaths, Chris discovered it wasn't Mary but Vin who had banished the darkness. He discovered his heart and soul were still a part of him, but battered, and had been healing since the moment his eyes first alighted on Vin. Ella had brought the darkness with her but she had also brought Vin into his life, bringing him and Vin together in ways he and Sarah had never shared, with wordless gestures. He would have died for her, but he'd go to Hell for Vin.

If Vin was ever ripped from him like Sarah and Adam, Chris knew the darkness would be all consuming, and this time it would be forever.

END
 

Chapter Text

For several years after the deaths of Sarah and Adam, Chris had seen Christmas as a time of emptiness, recalling the laughter of a small boy and his mama, both now lost to him. However, this Christmas his ranch echoed with laughter.

As he took a small swallow of his beer he wondered how such a disparate group of men had come together: a notorious Lothario, a kid, a loner sniper, a con man, a paramedic, and a profiler who had once been a priest, and then there was him.

The one thing they all shared was a lack of family to be with at Christmas beyond the one they had created over these past years. It didn't matter that Ezra had his mother as she made little effort to share any sense of family occasion with her son unless it would benefit her financially, or that Josiah had a sister. Josiah had spent yesterday visiting her but Hannah's mental illness had worsened, leaving her unable to recognize her only brother.

For the rest of them there was only this team of men who had become family, though this year their number had swollen to include Nathan's new wife, Rain, and JD's girlfriend, Casey. Casey's Aunt Nettie would have been here too but she had made a promise to spend Christmas Day with an old friend. For this reason they delayed the Christmas present unwrapping until after midday to allow JD, Casey and Vin to spend the morning with Nettie. That thought made Chris smile. Vin had really taken to Nettie, and she to him, treating him like a son even though she had known him for such a short time.

It all might have been far different, Chris thought as he recalled the crossroads he had stood on only a few months earlier. So many roads had laid ahead of him at the time. First there was Mary, beautiful and smart, but Chris realized he couldn't help but compare her to Sarah and find something wanting. He couldn't quite put his finger on it but realized they were better as friends. She had met a good man who had been a friend of her late husband, and she was happy. He couldn't wish more for her than that.

The second road was dark and twisted though he hadn't realized that until he took a step upon it as he rekindled an old love affair with Ella Gaines. That dark path was gone now, with Ella locked up in an asylum for the criminally insane once the full extent of her insanity and obsession with him had been revealed, and these men had helped to put her in there. He just hoped they never let her back out because he didn't believe that kind of deep obsession could ever be cured. As long as she lived he would fear for the lives of those he considered friends and family.

The third road had seemed too smooth when it ought to have been rocky and full of pitfalls. He had shied away from it over the years, afraid it was a deception, too easy, but then realized it didn't have to be difficult. Vin made it easy with every word and gesture. Looking across the room his eyes met Vin's, seeing a slight crinkle of worry around the edges that faded when Chris relaxed and gave him a half-hidden smile. They never seemed to talk much and yet managed to convey a thousand words and feelings with a single look. It was easy, and now Chris had started down that road with Vin he never wanted to turn back. He wasn't stupid. He knew there would be rocky moments and the occasional bridge to cross but Chris never doubted for a moment they'd make it together, not since the first time he took his courage in his hands and kissed Vin.

He recalled that moment now, standing on the porch steps just a few hours after the judge ordered Ella to be committed indefinitely for the murder of Sarah and Adam, and for six other murder and attempted murder charges in her obsessive pursuit of Chris. He recalled the softness of Vin's lips, the bright smile in his eyes that told him this was the right road to take. When he awoke the next morning with Vin plastered against his side, both of them naked beneath the warm covers, he could still see a smooth road ahead of them, stretching into the horizon.

Later, once all the food was eaten and the gifts unwrapped, he and Vin would make an announcement, letting their friends know of the road they had decided to take together. Chris knew they would find nothing but love and acceptance from the people around them, and he looked forward to the rest of that journey with all these friends by their side.

END
 

Chapter Text

They had very little warning when the anomaly reopened several miles south of the town. The small herd of dinosaurs took all of them by surprise but it didn't take long before they figured out why the Parasaurolophus had stampeded. Chris yelled out a warning as an Edmontosaurus came through the anomaly, chasing the herd from some point in the Late Cretaceous period into the present. It was too late to order JD to shut it down as all of Team 7 turned their attention on the large predator. It took a number of stun shots before the carnivore began to stumble and eventually fall down.

Chris approached very carefully, aware from the reports on the tragic killing of Evan Cross's wife that this particular dinosaur was deadly. It was breathing heavily, its reptilian looking eyes looked glassy and slowly closed as it fell unconscious. Even from a safe distance Chris could smell its fetid breath and see the shredded flesh caught between its teeth from where it must have taken a bite out of something, probably a Parasaurolophus that had managed to escape somehow. At least he hoped it was some other dinosaur but the report from the Canadians and the Brits talked of a spaghetti junction of anomalies leading to all different time zones.

"We need to round up the rest before they're spotted."

Buck, Nathan, and Josiah were already giving chase while Vin picked off some of the stragglers using a high-powered tranquilizer rifle. Fortunately the small herd of around fifteen Parasaurolophus had stampeded away from the small town and no doubt the government would provide a suitable cover-up story while they transported these animals back through the anomaly to where they belonged. While Chris waited for the specialist transportation crews to arrive he and Vin decided to do a little recon through the anomaly. Stepping through, Chris heard Vin whistle low as they found themselves in a large clearing with literally dozens of anomalies spread all around them. It wasn't hard to work out where the herd had come from as the ground had been churned up beneath them, leading Chris and Vin to another anomaly not quite opposite but Chris was already convinced dinosaurs reacted like a flock of birds when evading a predator. They needed to be certain so they stepped through onto a grassy plain that stretched to the horizon. Off to one side Chris could see remnants of the herd that must have scattered when the Edmontosaurus attacked. They headed back into the spaghetti junction.

"How long have we got?" Vin asked.

Chris checked the Cross-Kanan anomaly detector device noting the decay rate of the harmonics around them. He shook his head, expression grim. With so many open anomalies it made it a almost impossible to figure out so he could only hope they had enough time. He glanced over as the first of the trucks came through with its heavy load and pointed to the anomaly ahead of them. At least they had used good sense and transported the Edmontosaurus first because no one wanted that to remain on their side of the timeline should the anomalies close down before they were finished transporting all the dinosaurs.

"We'd best head back. We can't afford to be caught this side of the anomaly if it shuts down."

For once luck seemed to be on their side as the last of the Parasaurolophus was taken through and the truck returned from the Late Cretaceous anomaly to the Spaghetti junction but it stalled as it tried to move up the slope back to their own timeline, one wheel spinning uselessly in the churned up ground from first the stampeding dinosaurs and then the dozen trucks carrying stunned animals. Chris couldn't even guess what time zone they were in right now but he figured leaving a huge truck behind might not be a great idea. It was too big and heavy to push so he joined Vin in stripping down lots of thick, palm like leaves and branches from nearby trees, laying them beneath the spinning tire in the hope it might grip.

It worked, and the truck sped through suddenly just as Chris noticed the anomalies around them shutting down.

"Run!" he yelled, and they dove through the anomaly leading home just as began to close, rolling as they fetched up against the truck they'd just rescued.

Chris stood up and shook some of the mud from his dark uniform before looking up and freezing.

The grazing land south of the town had disappeared, replaced by arable farmland, and though the other members of Chris's team were right where he left them Chris noticed the small changes in their uniform badges. Something had changed.

"Captain Larabee, I'm glad you made it back... but who's that with you?"

Chris glanced across at Vin, quietly glad his best friend had been beside him on the other side if he didn't exist here.

END