Over the years, Connor and Abby had encountered a wide variety of creatures that happened to stumble through anomalies. Creatures from eras long forgotten and eras still to come; creatures that were terrifying and deadly, cute and harmless, weird, fascinating… The list was long, and grew longer on a near day by day basis, and both Connor and Abby knew they’d never tire of going out into the field and coming face to face with whatever the latest anomaly allowed through. They weren’t prepared for this latest encounter though, and Abby had to try very hard not to laugh at the look of sheer disdain on Captain Becker’s face as they approached.
“We dragged ourselves all the way out here with fully charged EMDs and two teams for a bloody ginger tom cat!”
The cat was currently sat a few feet away from the anomaly and had an almost smug expression on its face as it nonchalantly licked a front paw.
“Aw, he’s kind of cute really,” Connor crouched down and held out his hand for the cat. It immediately began to pad over to him, tail in the air and purring. It rubbed its head against Connor. “I think he likes me, Abby.”
“We can’t keep him,” Abby said. “You know the rules. If we can get a creature back to where they belong then we do so; if not, they go into the menagerie.”
“He probably didn’t even come through the anomaly,” Becker sighed. “There’s a farmhouse not that far from here. More than likely, he belongs there. We should just lock the anomaly and head back to the ARC.”
Connor was making a fuss of the cat, tickling its ears and rubbing its chin. Abby couldn’t help smiling at him. Neither of them were cat lovers, but there was no denying that this particular one had taken to Connor and it was a heart warming sight. As she watched, she noticed something that wasn’t quite right. She was no expert on mammals, but that cat didn’t have the body structure of a standard domestic house cat. It seemed broader with more well developed hind legs, something she would have associated more with one of the big cats like a lion or tiger.
She moved closer to touch it, but it turned on her and hissed, showing its teeth, and that was when they all realised that this cat had, in all likelihood, come through the anomaly from another time.
“Two sets of fangs?” Connor said. “That’s serious hunting gear. Don’t envy the mice where he comes from!”
“I think we’re looking at some kind of future evolution or mutation of a domestic cat,” Abby said. “Can we get a date on that anomaly?”
Connor pulled out the dating calculator and went over to the anomaly. “It’s saying approximately 2040, it’s only accurate to about 5 or so years when the anomaly leads to the future.”
“Could a species evolve so quickly?” Becker asked.
“It’s possible I suppose, but more likely this is either a mutation or is some kind of experiment with genetics.” Abby scowled. She was all for preservation of species and research that helped that, but she disliked experimentation and creatures being deliberately altered without good reason. “We need to get him back to where he belongs. Come on Connor.”
The cat was currently curled up in Connor’s arms, snuggling against his chest and looking quite content. Abby knew the look on Connor’s face too well and realised that unless they took the cat through the anomaly now, he’d be attached and would find some excuse for keeping it. They just couldn’t have a cat in their 4th storey flat.
“Fifteen minutes,” Becker said as Abby prepared to go through, engaging the clip on her EMD. It may only be 30 or so years in the future, but she was not taking any chances. She nodded and then motioned for Connor to follow her with the cat.
As they stepped through the anomaly, Abby instinctively moved a little ahead of him with her EMD raised. A quick sweeping glance around told them that they’d arrived in the middle of what appeared to be some kind of military base, so it was no surprise when they suddenly found themselves surrounded by a group of soldiers.
“Drop your weapons!” one shouted. Not wanting to argue when they were clearly outnumbered, Abby placed her EMD on the ground and held up her arms.
“Lock that anomaly!” another soldier barked, and two of them knelt down and opened up a very familiar looking case containing a device Connor knew better than anyone else. He grinned and opened his mouth to say something, but the soldiers all suddenly froze as a voice was heard from a little way off.
“At ease, soldiers.”
“I guess this is the part where Becker shows up and asks if we brought him a postcard,” Abby whispered. The soldier that had called out was approaching; striding over with long, confident paces.
“My apologies, Ma’am,” he said. “My men are a little over zealous today. There was no anomaly opening scheduled for today, so when the detector went off… Please accept my apologies, Ma’am. If we’d known it was you they wouldn’t have treated you and your companion in this manner.”
“It’s fine,” Abby said, slightly bemused as she watched the soldiers lower their weapons and disperse back to wherever they had come from. Connor was also a little confused; those soldiers were clearly something to do with anomalies in this time, and their leader had obviously recognised Abby – but not him. He’d referred to Connor as Abby’s companion.
“That was weird.”
“Hm. Let’s just go and find somewhere where we can let this little guy go and then head back to the anomaly.”
“No arguing from me,” Connor responded.
They made their way through the base, realising it was more than just a military installation. It seemed to be an entire town with schools, shops and a pub. They had no idea where the cat had actually come from, but Abby said he’d probably find his own way easily enough if they let him go somewhere quiet. She had spotted what looked to be a recreation area close to some residential buildings; it seemed as good a place as any so they headed in that direction.
Connor felt uneasy. People were looking at them in an odd way – in fact they were staring. Connor glared back menacingly and some looked away, red faced at being caught, but most just continued. There was a lot of whispering too. If Abby had noticed it, she wasn’t letting it bother her. He admired that in her, the way she could just focus on the task in hand and not let other things distract her.
“Say your goodbyes, Connor. We’ve already been longer than fifteen minutes, Becker will be having a fit by now!”
Connor sighed and crouched down, placing the cat on the ground. “Bye little Danny! Go find your owner!” The cat gave Connor a final look then scurried off into some nearby bushes.
“Little Danny?” Abby asked as he got to his feet.
“Yeah, the ginger thing… thought it was kind of appropriate didn’t I!”
“You can’t call a cat Danny!”
Abby laughed and tugged on Connor’s hand, giving it a playful squeeze as the pair of them walked back towards the anomaly. From a distance, Abby could see it was still locked. “Something must be wrong, Becker should’ve unlocked it by now.”
“Ah. Slight problem. He can’t.” Connor said. Abby gave him a questioning look. “Each locking device has its own signature code. The anomaly can only be unlocked by the same device that locked it. We have to find those soldiers and get them to open it for us.”
Abby looked around, there wasn’t a soldier to be seen and she doubted they’d be able to get access to one of the military buildings. “You try the pub, Connor. There’s bound to be someone there that will know how to get hold of a soldier. I’ll have a wander around and see if I can find anyone.”
Connor ran over to the pub and went inside. It seemed he’d struck gold; sat in one corner was a group of soldiers, some of them he recognised from earlier and there were a few others as well. He was about to go over when he heard part of their conversation that intrigued him.
“That’s my cousin you’re talking about, and there’s no way she’d do that!” A young soldier with blonde hair said.
“I know what I saw. The Captain, barely 48 hours after dumping her boyfriend, is parading around the place on her day off with a new man.”
“It’s not really any of our business is it? She is entitled to a private life.”
“It is our business, Maitland, when he finds out, Anderson is going to be like a bear with a sore head,” the older soldier spat. At the mention of the names Maitland and Anderson. Connor grew even more interested. Both reasonably common names, but mentioned in the same breath by soldiers connected to anomalies? It was just too much of a coincidence.
Connor cleared his throat and the group looked at him. The young blonde soldier’s mouth dropped open and then a smile spread across his face. “I don’t believe it! This explains everything, I know exactly what’s happened. Stay there! I have to go and get someone!” He stood up and practically ran out of the pub as the rest looked on shaking their heads and muttering something about crazy kids.
“I need that anomaly unlocking so that Abby and I can go back through,” Connor began. “I don’t suppose someone can help?”
“Sure. Gimme a few minutes to finish my pint and I’ll do it.”
Connor nodded gratefully and waited, feeling uneasy again. The remaining soldiers were giving him the same strange looks that he’d had outside. He debated whether he should sit down with them or go outside to look for Abby and tell her he’d found someone to unlock the anomaly for them. He opted for sitting down in the seat that the young soldier had left. “So… the young guy… Maitland?”
“Thinks he’s some big shot just because his cousin is the Captain,” one of the men sneered.
“Young Harry’s OK, nothing that can’t be knocked out of him in time,” another laughed.
Connor was about to ask more about the Captain, when the soldiers all stood to attention. Harry had returned, followed by a woman dressed in the same black uniform and a baseball cap. It was Connor’s turn to look shocked; the names weren’t just a coincidence. This woman could be Abby’s twin; a near perfect double save for a few minor differences that only someone who knew her well like Connor would notice.
“So the rumour is true,” she smiled, removing her cap. She then told the soldiers to sit down again and moved closer. “Didn’t any of you pay attention in your induction classes? How could you not recognise Connor Temple?”
“Sir! My apologies!” One by one the soldiers came over and shook his hand, much to Connor’s amusement. The female soldier watched them, a sparkle in her eye. She was clearly holding back something, not wanting to let down her professional persona in front of her men. Finally she couldn’t contain herself any longer. She came over, flung her arms around Connor and squeezed him tightly.
“Please tell me that the woman they thought was me is her? Are you two married yet?” she whispered in Connor’s ear. He was about to respond when he realised the place had gone silent. Abby had just arrived, looking for Connor, and all eyes turned to her, and then to the female soldier who had now released her hold on Connor and was doing her best to blink away tears forming in her eyes.
“I always hoped that our paths would cross one day during our travels and that I’d get to meet you,” she said. “Dad always said I was the spitting image of you.”
Abby stared, trying to process what she was seeing and hearing. It was like looking in a mirror and she wasn’t sure if she should be happy or frightened.
“I’m sorry. I should introduce myself. I’m Captain Nicola Temple, and I’m…”
“You’re our daughter!” Connor gushed, suddenly making the connection. “And Harry Maitland is…”
“I’m Jack’s son.” The young man smiled. Hugs were exchanged and some minutes later, Abby and Connor found themselves following Harry and Nicola through the town and towards the residential complex. At the far end was a house stood apart from the rest, and as they got closer, Connor spotted something familiar. ‘Danny’ the cat was sat by the door waiting to be let in.
“Is he your cat?” Connor asked.
“He sort of adopted me,” Nicola said. “No idea where he came from but I can’t get rid of him. I called him Quinn after… well, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you who.” She opened the door and Quinn ran inside, tail in the air.
Connor nudged Abby in the ribs and smiled smugly. “I was close,” he said. “I guess me and our daughter think alike.” Abby just shook her head and followed silently behind into Nicola’s house.
“It’s not much,” Nicola was saying, clearing a jacket and a towel from the sofa and motioning for Abby and Connor to sit down. “But it’s home. Don’t spend that much time here really.” She disappeared through a door and the sound of a tap being run and a kettle being filled was heard. “I need to leave you for a little while, there’s something I need to do. Damage limitation. I split up with my boyfriend a couple of days ago, and your appearance today set the rumour mill in progress. They thought I was trying to rub John’s nose in it by parading my new man around town. I may not like John much at the moment, but he doesn’t deserve this.” She waved, asked Harry to come with her and told Abby and Connor to make themselves at home.
After Harry and Nicola had gone, there was an awkward silence. The kettle switched itself off so Connor stood up to go and make a drink, then sat down again when he saw Abby’s face. She had barely spoken since Nicola had introduced herself, but he’d only really just noted that fact.
“You OK, Abs? I know this is a bit weird, meeting our future daughter and nephew, but it’s pretty cool too don’t you think?”
“It’s not that, Connor.”
“Don’t tell me it bothers you that they’ve chosen to be soldiers? I know it’s not the path we would have wanted for them, but if that’s what they wanted to do, then we wouldn’t have been able to stop them.”
“Didn’t you hear what she said?” Abby said quietly. “She talked about you in the past tense, as if you’re dead. We’re only about 30 years in our future here, which means you die in your 50s – far too young! Whether you die because of an illness or an accident, or you’re killed in the field on an anomaly call, I don’t think I want to stick around and find out.”
Connor took her hand and kissed her forehead. “OK, when she comes back, we’ll thank her for her hospitality and say we don’t think it’s a good idea to know too much about our future. We’ll get them to unlock the anomaly and go home.”
“There’s something else too. She said she’d hoped to meet me one day, as if she didn’t know me. Somehow I disappeared from her life when she was too young to remember me.”
“We won’t ask anything; if you don’t want to know how you die… how we die… then I completely understand.”
“Connor… I’m not sure I die. I just have doubts about the kind of mother I’d be after what happened to Jack and I as kids.” She felt sick. They’d never really talked about having children, although she knew it was something Connor wanted eventually. Having spent most of their childhood in and out of foster care because their natural mother didn’t know how to cope with them, Abby had wondered if she’d be the same, that the lack of maternal instinct was genetic.
“You wouldn’t abandon our child, Abby!”
“You don’t know that! Look, I can’t stay here. Let’s go and find Nicola now and go. I don’t want to be here a minute longer than we need to be.”
Connor nodded. He was a little disappointed but he could see that Abby was getting quite distressed. He thought he’d said enough in the Cretaceous to convince her that she wasn’t anything like her mother, but clearly he hadn’t and he knew he needed to do something once they got back home. Did they do counselling for this sort of thing?
His thoughts were interrupted by the door opening. It was Nicola returning, and she looked concerned. “Your anomaly closed.”
“What?” Abby glanced at Connor, biting down on her bottom lip.
“It was a new one, it’s not on any of our charts or timetables so it’s unpredictable. I have guys on it already, trying to see if they can link it to another one and find out when it’ll reopen, but until then… you’re welcome to stay here.” Nicola grinned. Having both her parents here was a dream come true, but her face fell at their reaction to the news.
Abby choked back a sob and buried her head in Connor’s chest. He stroked her hair and whispered that it would be OK, and shot Nicola an apologetic look.