Title: The Cave
Type: General Beta: BranL Type/Rating: PG
Characters: Phil Coulson, Nick Fury, Felix Blake, and lots of raptors Disclaimer: All characters are from Marvel and I don’t own them.
Warnings: Please ignore the medical inaccuracies. Archive: AO3 and OEAM Notes: Written for 2016 OEAM Big Bang Summary: A brand new Agent Coulson is sent undercover into a world full of dinosaurs.
Fall 1992: Set immediately after “Battle Scars”:
“Welcome to SHIELD Agent Coulson, you look good in the suit. Too bad you will be going back into green for a while for your first mission,” the director greeted him with as he and Fury stepped into the conference room they had been directed to. “Have a seat.”
“I know we told you two that you would be working together but we need you in separate places for this op,” Director Johnson began after they were seated. “Fury you are regulated to the rescue team this time because you are too recognizable from the recent press in New York. Coulson, you will be going back into the Army as a recent returnee from Afghanistan. We have arranged to have you selected to be sent on a mission for the CIA. They are up to something in South American and from what we hear it isn’t very kosher and will likely blow up in their faces.”
“Agent Blake, you are going in with a three man communications team and your major priority will be getting updates from Coulson and calling for backup and cleanup once things go south,” she continued receiving a nod from him in acknowledgement. “I want one person inside and two outside if you can. Hopefully the conditions will allow that.”
“Where exactly will we be?” the agent called Blake asked.
“The CIA has identified an underground cave system along the borders of Peru, Chile, and Bolivia that has what they are calling unique animals,” came the explanation. “They have decided to play with the animal’s genetic codes to see if they can be used somehow. Whether that is through breeding or other means has not been identified.”
“What kind of animals are we talking here, birds?” Fury asked with a laugh.
“Oh no, they want to play with something much bigger,” Director Johnson commented as she looked around to make sure she had everyone’s attention. “There communications indicate they have found some kind of dinosaur.”
“It almost sounds like something out of “The Lost World,” Coulson said with a laugh.
“You had better hope not considering it is your job to infiltrate the compound and discover whatever it is they are supposed to doing,” Blake commented with a smile.
“Just make sure your communications work,” he commented as he started to consider the implications of how messed up this op could actually be. Then he turned to his friend Fury,” And you make sure you are ready as I have no wish to become some dinosaur’s dinner.”
First superheroes and now dinosaurs, what else would he discovered existed and run into now that he worked for S.H.I.E.L.D.?
Two weeks later:
“Alright, everybody listen up,” the CIA guy shouted at the group. “You will go through the door on the left in alphabetical order where you will receive full physicals and a full range of shots before being directed to dental. Let them know if you have an allergies or sensitivities to anything. Where you are going is isolated so if you are having any problem let them know. We cannot guarantee immediate evacuation if you become sick. Being eliminated for medical reasons will have no reflection on you, you will just be directed to another mission for us.”
The CIA man waited to ensure he was understood and there were no questions before continuing. “Once you finish you will be directed to a barracks where you will wait for 48 hours until medical totally clears you. Once that is done you will be given new uniforms and weapons before being directed to a particular group for your work assignments. From there you will be transported to the location and put to work. There will be no outside communications for the duration of the mission so get any phone calls or letters finished while you are in the barracks.”
Coulson did his first check in with Blake the morning they left the barracks to ensure his tracker was working properly and that the little camera and communications device were receiving clearly. Then he was directed to a group of 10 sergeants who were put onto a plane with a bunch of scientists and zoologists. Once the plane was in the air the lead zoologist approached the sergeants and had them draw numbers from a hat. The nine other sergeants were split into groups of three and placed with a group of scientists while Coulson, who had drawn number 10, was placed with two zoologist.
He was led to the back of the plane where he was introduced to his team and his duties were explained. “We are in charge of the holding pens and welfare of the animals when they are not with their trainers. Most of our work will be done during the evening and night hours,” said a big man with a South African accent. “You will be watching the animals during the night after we are finished with them. They will all be locked into secure cages when you are there but you will have a set of keys to enter the cages once you have tranquillized the beasts if needed. Try to avoid that as I doubt the guards will be within hearing distance if you need help.”
The other zoologist spoke up then, “Unlike the others, we are quartered in the pen support building which means you will have to make a trip once a day to the main compound to check in and pick up our food for the day. We have a toaster oven to heat food in and a frig but that is all. Not exactly roughing it but not as easy as the others will have it either.” That could make checking in easier Coulson thought as he nodded in acknowledgement. He did not want to come off as chatty.
“There will be another aspect to your job that is more important,” the big South African began as he lowered his voice. “You must report on any odd behavior towards the animals from the trainers. These are very volatile animals and we have already had injuries to trainers who have become sloppy or too rough with the animals. It is up to us to stop that so we can have proper test results. We do not wish to have to put any more animals down because training them from scratch takes such time. Do you understand?”
“I think I understand,” was Coulson’s answer. “If I may asked, what kind of animals are we talking about here?”
The others from his team only smiled at him and said, “You’ll see.”
They were met at the airport by guards and broken into their groups for transport. Coulson only noticed the heavily reinforced structure of the transports and the heavy armament of their transport team. They were driven into the jungle and proceeded along what was little more than a cart path for several hours before the trucks stopped outside the entrance of a partially hidden cave. They continued after all windows were closed and guards were placed at the top and back of each truck. The trucks entered the cave and followed a path leading behind some boulders and to the right as they descended a steep hill. They passed through another entrance way and though a waterfall before coming out into an underground jungle.
Coulson was looking around at the plants which were different from anything he had seen before when they drove onto a wide plain. His breath caught in his throat when in the distance he saw his first dinosaurs. Coulson was suddenly glad that he had taken the briefing comment about dinosaurs seriously and spent a week reading all he could find on dinosaurs and their habitats. He had to force himself to look away and discreetly activate his camera to record the compound and surrounding area as they continued across the plain.
The transport he was in broke off from the others and entered another jungle covered area. They drove for another four miles before entered a man-made clearing with high security fences and walls. They stopped before the main entrance to the building and unloaded their bags before he was led to the left and up some steps. He was shown to his room, the last on the left beside the emergency exit, and left alone to unpack.
“You will be collected and driven to the main compound tonight for dinner in four hours. Be sure you have your ID card. Pay attention because after tonight you are on your own,” the guard said with a sneer as he turned away. He left Coulson wondering about his attitude and if there was a reason behind it.
Dinner was quiet as many were still tired from the trip. Coulson used the time to listen to the different conversations around him as well as exploring a little to see as much as he could. He found people friendly for the most part until he explained what his job was. Everyone seemed to get quiet around him after that but he could not discover a reason why. Leaving the problem for later, he was taken back to the training pens by the same guard who had brought him to the mess hall for dinner. He decided to take another short nap before he started his shift at 2300.
When Coulson went downstairs at the appointed time to start his shift he was met by Dr. Muni, the South African. He was lead through three sets of locked and barred double doors before they entered the office area of the pens. Before a quick tour of where everything was at, Dr. Muni took him into his office and explain his duties.
“Your duties will be to watch over the animals at night as well as clean the pen area-not the actual cages as those are to be cleaned by the trainers during the day. Your bigger duty will be to watch the interaction between the trainers and the animals in the mornings when they first arrive and in the evenings when the animals are returned. Yes I know that this will require a split sleep schedule but I am sure you will be able to handle it,” he continued. “We know that several of the trainers visit with the animals at night and we need a report of this and whatever interaction occurs. There are cameras in all of the cages and well as throughout the pen area. You will have access to them from the computer in this office. I will be blunt with you, there have been several trainers killed by the animals and this has all happened here in the pen area after the animals have been put up for the day. We need you to watch and see who is aggravating the animals and who seems to be able to build a rapport with them regardless of their position.”
“You will have several of the lab interns who will come in on your shift to take blood samples and inject the animals with different vitamins. I will teach you how to secure the animals for these procedures and any others that need to take place. I need you to watch and report on them also. The longer you are here I am sure you will be given more duties as you show yourself competent.”
“May I ask some questions about what is being done here?” Coulson asked as there just seemed to be a lot of information missing. After being given a go ahead signal he continued. “What are you trying to achieve with the animals here? And what kind of animals exactly are we talking about? Why was I given this position and why will nobody speak with me?”
Dr. Muni smiled as he gave his answers.
“If you are knowledgeable enough you will have noticed on the drive in that all of the animals on display were herbivores. Do not let that lure you into a false sense of security, there are plenty of carnivores and that is what we work with in this building. There is another compound several miles away that deals with herbivore testing and I will arrange for you to take a tour there so you have an idea of the difference in the handling of the animals. What we are trying to do here is simply determine if the carnivores can be used as soldiers in combat.”
“You choice for this position was not as at random as it seemed. The hat was rigged. We looked at the records of all of the soldiers beforehand and selected you for this position. Your ranger training has made you quick which you will need to handle the animals but more importantly you have a talent for reading people, tactics, and logistics according to your records. That is a talent that is in short supply here you will find, especially from the guards.”
Then the scientist decided to take a chance, “You see, most of the scientist hired to work here are actually part of another organization. We like to hire people who are smart and intuitive. We think you may be one of these people. Consider your time here as a trial hire.”
“What organization are you referring to?” Coulson asked not expecting a real answer.
“If you work out the way we think, you will know in time,” was all of the smiling answer he received. “Now I will leave you to your duties and getting acquainted with the animals. Just remember to be careful and never forget they are trying to kill you and you will be fine. We will leave our food order on the desk here for you to pick up in the morning. You go directly to the kitchen for that although you can eat in the mess hall yourself first if you prefer. The guards at the front will give you the keys to one of the trucks in the morning to use. Just remember to watch your surroundings at all times and you will be fine.”
Coulson spent an interesting first night staring at the animals as he identified the different carnivores from the pictures he had seen in books. That and being snapped and snarled at from creatures he was sure wanted him dead. At the end of his shift the next morning he collected the food order after completing his reports and went to check out a vehicle. The guards were helpful but not exactly friendly.
“Watch out for spiders,” the guard said with a laugh as he handed over the keys. “There are reports of a group just south of the main compound. If you see any, floor it and head in the opposite direction.”
He wondered what the spider comment was all about as he followed the path through the jungle. Then he heard a strange clicking from behind him and looked in his rear view mirror. Seeing the huge 15 foot spider following him was all it took for him to floor it and pray he could out run it. The watch towers began firing at the spider behind him as they came into the clearing and raced to the fence gate. All he could do was sit in the jeep and shake for a good ten minutes after he pulled up to the kitchens.
“God, what did I get myself into,” he though as he finally was able to leave the jeep and go inside.
“Coulson to Blake,” he called as he decided to check in on the drive back. He had been ensured by the guy at the fence that a patrol had been sent out to drive off any other spiders and dinosaurs from the area.
“We read you Coulson, you’re a little statically but we can understand you,” came Blake’s callback a minute later.
“Just checking in to let you know I am in place for now,” he reported. “Please tell me that the extraction team is in place if I need it.”
“Fury’s team settled this morning, is there a problem?” Blake wanted to know.
“If you can call being chased by a 15 foot tall spider normal then no problem. And no I am not joking,” was all he said.
There was silence for a minute before he received a response. “You probably do not want to hear that we have placed a case of mini cameras near the entrance for you to retrieve and set up, do you?”
“Is there any way to send you a signal from cameras that are already set up?” Coulson wanted to know. “They have them all over the place and I have access to a computer to monitor them. Also, there is another group other than the CIA working in here. I have been told they exist but not who they are yet.”
“I will pass that info on and ask about the camera feeds. Try to check in every 48 hours unless it is something dire,” came back his instructions.
“Roger,” he answered as he signed off. He dropped off the food and went to bed too tired to think about planning anything else at the moment.
Coulson quickly set a daily pattern for his cleaning, and watching the animals. He made it a point to appear friendly and helpful to the lab techs who came down nightly to do testing on the animals and was surprised at the amount of information they gave him about what was being done to the dinosaurs. Once his interest in what was being done became known his team-mates starting letting him read copies of their reports. He was surprised by the trusting way he was being treated and warily began checking everything and everyone he interacted with.
Remembering that he had been told that part of his job was to watch the trainers, Coulson made a point of staying up and watching how the trainers interacted with the various dinosaurs during the day. It made him think to himself that the CIA would never make this work. It was while watching for the third time that he saw his first dino attack. One of the trainers who was working with some species of raptor made the mistake of letting himself and his watchers be distracted and turned to the side a little. That was all it took for the raptor to attack, killing the trainer by tearing out his throat. The raptor was then gunned down immediately. As he looked at the downed trainer he thought about how the man had come down to the cages several nights before and taken his anger out on the raptor with a shock stick. He wondered how much of the raptor’s attack had been animal nature, and how much of it had been memory. He stated as much in a report he left for his zoologists before going to bed.
A small satellite receiver had been set up inside the entrance for him by the backup team and he was given instructions on how to set up a constant feed of pictures from the cameras. He used his new hobby of hacking the computer system to feed pictures and reports from the other sites inside the cave through the satellite also. This turned out to be a bonus for him because he had not had a day off since he began working in the cave four months ago. He hoped for a break soon.
Coming into the office one evening to watch the camera feeds from the pens he found a note telling him that he would be taking a field trip to the herbivore compound the next afternoon. He would then have two days off to do with as he wished inside the cave. Then he was to prepare for a trip into the jungle to collect more animals. He felt a chilly shiver go down his spine at reading about the trip to collect more dinosaurs. He had heard stories about the blood and deaths that occurred at each outing and was not looking forward to the trip.
Several weeks later:
“Blake to Coulson,” he heard over his receiver on his morning run to collect their food.
“Go ahead,” he replied.
“We have word that a new shipment of personnel are coming in this afternoon,” Blake told him. “We have identified several known Hydra and A.I.M. members in this group. Several have very bad reps so be careful and watch your back.”
“Any word on what I am supposed to do if approached?” he wanted to know since he had not received any word since he had been told about Hydra’s being the employer of the scientists by Dr. Muni. The Dr. definitely wanted to recruit him.
“Go along with the recruitment Cheese to ensure your own safety, we can always extract you later,” came the answer from his friend Fury. It was nice to hear another voice on the radio for a change. “How are the working conditions going?”
Everything has become a lot more dangerous and hectic since the procurement outing. They had collected eggs and babies this time instead of full grown animals. The compounds had been under semi constant attack since then and he was only allowed to travel between the compounds for food every three days now, and only with another escort vehicle.
“Bad,” he replied honestly. “The eggs have all hatched and I am now in charge of feeding the babies. I am constantly being hissed and spit at by the adult raptors and pteradons because they smell the babies on me. They have tried scratching me if I get too close to the cages so I am having to vary my work hours to get everything done. Something is going to come to a head soon and I don’t think the security precautions can handle it. We have already had several dinos break out of their cages and pens.”
“Don’t become some dino’s dinner before we can get you out of there Cheese,” Fury said quietly. Damn the CIA and their messed up, ill planned, and stupid ideas.
“I will do my best,” Coulson replied as he pulled up to the kitchens.
The next morning before heading to bed Coulson was introduced to three new trainers who were assigned to the raptor babies. He quickly developed a hatred for the three as they all looked down on him as beneath them. They tried to intimidate him into cleaning their cages and feeding their dinos but he ignored them. It became common for them to knock him around whenever none of the scientist or lab interns were around watching. It was only after several weeks of this treatment that he noticed that the dinos had quit hissing and spitting at him.
One morning one of the new trainers became mad at him for not cleaning his cages and pushed him against one of the raptor cages holding him there where the raptor could reach him. The man, Hampton, held him against the cage as the raptor ran up to him. He felt sharp claws cut into his back at the top of his shoulder and drag down the right side of his back to just above his belt. The pain was excruciating and he could already feel his pants become soaked in blood from the deep cut. The raptor cut him three times before Hampton let him go to fall to the floor and left. He passed out from blood loss and pain while trying to crawl away from the cage.
He blinked his eyes against the bright light as he slowly woke until someone shielded his eyes giving him time to adjust to the light.
“Slowly now and take it easy,” he was told. “I am going to raise the bed.”
“Where?” he managed to creek out as a straw was guided into his mouth. He drank several swallows before the water was pulled away.
“You are in the infirmary,” came the answer from the nurse helping him. “Hold your questions for the doctors, they are on their way.”
He gave a brief nod of his head as he began a mental check of his body to ascertain his condition. He was surprised not to be in more pain as he assessed his back and decided he was receiving rather good drugs because he felt no pain at all. He would have to remember to ask what they had given him because he was not groggy or anything of the sort which was different. He didn’t normally react well to any drug let alone pain killers.
“Ah, our patient is awake,” a doctor said in a loud voice as he walked through the door. “Good, good, we will just do a quick check to see how you are doing.”
The nurse moved out of the way as a group of four doctors began poking and prodding him before pulling him forward to check his back. It was at this point that Coulson noticed that he was not hooked up to an IV or any other machine. Seeing his reaction the first doctor smiled as he and the other doctor’s finished.
“I suppose you are wondering what is going on?” the doctor asked as most of the others left the room. At Coulson’s nod he continued.
“You are not hooked up to any machines because none are needed. You were taken off of them last night.”
“How?” Coulson managed to inject.
“We used your injury as the chance to try out a new healing salve made from one of the plants found growing here in the cave. Most people injured here are killed outright from the animals or the injuries are too minor for us to try this salve. After injecting you with pain killers we rubbed the salve into your wound. It worked better than any of our lab projections led us to believe. It has been seven days since you were injured and yet you will find that you are completely healed. While there is a nasty surface scar, that appears to be the only lasting affect from your injury. You have healed completely and with no signs that you will have any impediment from your injury. After you have eaten a good meal, we plan to turn you over to the therapist to test that theory,” he was told. As the doctor stood up to leave he stated, “I will re-examine you after your rehab. Eat well.”
Coulson was not thrilled to learn he had been used as a lab experiment while out but there was little he could do about it at this point. He would have to find out as much as he could about this drug and possibly steal a sample to send to Blake in case of any after affects that might show up later. While thinking about that, he realized that he had missed three check-ins and wondered what was being done about it.
As he laid down and waited for the nurse to come back in he looked around the room until he finally noticed the camera in the corner near his bed. He was staring at it when it suddenly moved side to side. Remembering how he had hooked up the computer in Dr. Muni’s office to pull access from any computer in the cave that was hooked into the same system, he began to wonder. Taking a chance he pointed at himself. The camera moved in an up and down motion. He used his knowledge of American Sign Language to ask if they were Blake and had watched the cameras to find out what had happened to him. Again the camera moved up and down. He then asked if they had sent someone into the cave to investigate. The camera moved side to side. He signed to them that he would steal as much info as he could about the drug at first chance. The camera moved side to side again. Hearing the nurse outside his door he stopped knowing that he was being watched over by his friends on the other side of the camera.
The therapy session later that afternoon was very thorough and he was exhausted afterwards. They took more blood tests after he showered then fed him and told him to rest. He was released back to his work station the next day where his team were very happy to see him. He returned to work that night despite being told by his team to take a few days off. He agreed to take it easy for a few days and began cleaning up around the cages. He would clean the offices later when everyone was gone so he could send a message to Blake via picture to clarify everything that had happened while he was in the infirmary.
As he was nearing the raptor cages he noticed that all the raptors stopped to watch him as he walked by them. The big one he called Mother because all the others seemed to listen to her came right up to the bars and watched him closely. He stopped and watched her carefully as she seemed to be trying to smell him. Not really understanding what he was doing, he took a chance and stepped closer to the bars. She took a deeper sniff of the air then looked at him. Then she cocked her head to the side and trilled at him. He attempted to repeat the sound with little success. She repeated the sound slower and he tried again coming much closer. She nodded her head and stepped back. Watching her for a few more moments, Coulson understood that something significant had happened even if he didn’t understand what that had been.
He completed his clean-up of the pen area and offices as well as sending off his message to Blake. He then decided to check the dinos one final time before settling into the office and begin reviewing the last eight days of camera feeds to see what he had missed. As he came to the cages with the baby dinos in them he noticed that they did not appear to have been fed. He went and cut up a bunch of meat from the feeding frig and began feeding the little ones. The noise from the adults behind him seemed to die down as he did this. Coming to the cage containing the littlest raptors he noticed that they had been chained to the back wall so they could not reach their food or water. He took a deep breath before going against the rules and opening the cage. He left the door open as he entered and moved the dishes close to the raptors so they could eat and drink.
As the babies were distracted eating he checked around the chain on each one to ensure that it wasn’t cutting into them. He unhooked one baby whose chain had rubbed the neck raw and took it into the office to apply a medical salve to prevent infection. He was amazed when after sniffing his neck the baby did not try to bite him at all since even the littlest ones were known to bite. He left the baby sitting on the desk while he turned and put away the salve. Turning back around to return it to its cage he discovered it was gone. Walking back into the pen area to start his search of the little guy he noticed that he could see several of the little ones walking around. Going back to the baby’s cage he confirmed that they had all slipped their chains; he had a total of seven babies out to catch. Sighing to himself he figured they at least could not leave the pen area and decided to let them run a little.
After several hours of reviewing camera feeds he decided it was time to catch the baby raptors before anyone discovered them out. He was surprised to find them curled up against several of the adults in their cages and figured he was in trouble when Mother led the little one in her cage to the door and pushed it through the bars at him. He looked at Mother before slowly bending down and picking the little raptor up. Nodding to her, he turned and walked back toward the baby’s cage to put it back in its chains. As he passed the various cages the other six babies slipped through the bars and followed him back to their cage. They allowed him to put their chains back on and settle down to go to sleep as he closed their cage. As he walked back to the office he stopped at Mother’s cage and bowed gently at the waist to her. She returned the bow and watched him as he walked away.
Coulson continued to let the babies out of their cage at night after all of the lab personnel had left. He knew he was alone and figured the doors were locked and no one would be back that late. He continued to have no problems and began letting several of the slightly bigger raptor younglings out. Only once was he attacked receiving a nasty scratch down the arm before several of the adult raptors hissed and screeched stopping the young one from attacking more. He cleaned the wound himself and wrapped it tightly and decided to wait until morning to go to the infirmary. He explained the injury away as having tripped over his own feet and fallen too close to the cage. The doctors bought his story and he was able to steal two vials of the healing salve they used on him. The first chance he got he made a detour to the cave entrance and dropped off the drug to Blake.
Hampton continued to threaten Coulson and cause problems for him but he soon realized that the man was angling to take his job as he saw that as easy and a stepping stone to advancement. The trainers were becoming frustrated because the dinos were not becoming manageable and started to take it out on the animals. The raptors and pteradons would come in the evening with whip marks and burns from the shock rods and it fell to Coulson to ensure they received treatment as the trainers were not taking proper care of them. This began to cause addition problems with Hampton and several of the other trainers as the scientist began to complain about the treatment of the animals.
Then Dr. Muni told Coulson that the scouts had identified a T-rex nest and that they would be going on a collection run in two days. Coulson knew then that everything was escalating and it was only a matter of weeks before everything blew up. He reported such to Blake at his next check-in. Blake in turn told Fury who made a called and had the cleanup team increased in size and firepower.
Coulson was surprised when he was left behind when they left to collect the T-rex baby. He had been part of every collection crew since he had started. When it was explained that he was being left behind to help finish a large connected enclosure was when he learned that they were going to bring in the adult T-rex also. He did not shout at them that they were insane but it was a near thing. They were losing control of the pteradons and raptors, how were they going to control a T-rex. After finishing the enclosure he packed himself a small survival pack and hid it in the pen closet. He also started to carry all of his knives. He would have also carried the gun he was issued but he had noticed that the raptors reacted to the smell of gun oil and powder badly.
When the collection crew returned three days later he watched as the T-rex was put into the enclosure while the baby was put into a cage in the pen. He watched as the other dinos in the pen became agitated and jumpy. He became irritated as over the next week all kinds of people who had no business being there came into the pen to look at the adult T-rex through the reinforced window at the end of the pen. The trainers took to coming in and poking at the baby T-rex which enraged the adult. Finally he was able to convince Dr. Muni to lock everyone out after a raptor managed to get out of its cage somehow and kill a lab tech. Slowly, everything calmed down some but never to the level it was before.
Coulson continued to let the young raptors out every night with no incident after everyone left for the night. He decided to take a chance one night and left them locked up while taking the baby T-rex out. The adult raptors watched him from their cages as he carried the baby to the observation window. Pounding on the window he was able to gain the adult’s attention as he set the baby down on the floor beside it. He cracked the window open (he didn’t ask whose bright idea it was to put in a window that opened) about eight inches then backed away as the adult came forward. While they could not touch each other through the screen, they could smell and communicate with each other. The adult settle against the window as the baby pushed into it from the inside. Coulson leaned back against Mother’s cage watching for a while until he determined that it was okay to return to some of his other duties. Taking another chance he went ahead and let the smallest raptors out of their cages so they could visit with the adults.
The next morning before the trainers and scientist came in Coulson rounded up the raptors and returned them to their cages. Then he slowly approached the baby T-rex. Watching warily and moving very slowly he slid his arms under the baby. When it started to squirm he gentled it with shushes and pets as he slowly backed away. He placed the baby down on the floor of its cage in a place it could still see the window from and closed the door. He then returned to the window and closed it before backing away. The adult let out a scream and batted its head against the wall before settling again in a way that let it see inside to its baby. Coulson went to finish his daily report and clean up before everyone arrived.
The next night when he came into the pen Dr. Muni warned him to be careful as the adult T-Rex had settled by the window and would not move. When asked if he wanted extra security in the pen that night Coulson decline saying he would just hit the emergency button if it was needed. The trainers were particular jerks that evening knocking him around more than usual. When one shouted “Why should you have a good day when ours has been rotten” at him he decide to wait until they left to start his chores in the pen. The lab techs were jumpy when they noticed the adult T-rex at the window and left without doing their tests. When he was sure no one else was coming in he locked the pen doors and let the young raptors out of their cages. Then he open the baby T-rex cage and carried it back to the window. He opened the window again while watching the adult then backed away to begin his chores. Later on he brought food and water to the window so the little guy could eat.
Things continued in this vein for a week. The lab techs had finally managed to take all of the test they missed but had forgotten to take a cart of tubes and needles with them. Coulson pushed it to the side before beginning his clean up. He had already opened the window and was setting the baby T-rex down by the window when Hampton and another newer trainer came back into the pen. They pushed him against the cages and started punching him.
“I am tired of being told I am a failure and need to learn to control the animals like you do,” Hampton said as he and the other pulled their knives on Coulson. He in turn pulled out two of his own knives to defend himself. He had just taken down the newer trainer when Hampton stabbed Coulson in the shoulder near his neck with a needle full of raptor blood. As Coulson fell to his knees Hampton pulled the fire extinguisher off the wall and hit him in the head with it. He vision was going black when he saw Hampton start hitting the baby T-rex and a small raptor that had settled beside it. The roar of the adult T-rex was last thing he heard.
Blake watched the attack on Coulson as he radioed Fury and his back up team for help. They entered the cave and converged on Blake’s communications post to find out what was going on. Both teams watched in horror as the raptors let themselves out of their cages and triggered the alarm and door locks. Fury made the decision not to take his team into the cave right then after they watched the raptors rip apart everyone in the building. They watched as the T-rex tore the doors off of its enclosure and the doors off the pen in its attempt to retrieve its baby. They were even more shocked as they watch the raptors let the other dinos out of their cages and pens on the different cameras. Fury watched as one by one the dinosaurs broke into the different compounds and tore them apart. Most of the compounds personnel were slaughtered by the raptors but some escaped into the jungle. The scent of blood drew the spiders out and they watched in horror as the sun came up to reveal giant spiders feeding on both the living and the dead.
During the whole assault, one camera was left on Coulson as he lie convulsing and then unconscious on the pen floor. Fury had called for further re-enforcements and was told to wait for their arrival to enter. They could only stand there and watch as several hours later the raptor known as Mother returned to the carnivore pen with several others and dragged Coulson out of the building and into the jungle. They could not tell from the camera angle if he was dead or still alive.
The clean-up team entered the Cave in force at daylight the next day. They found a handful of survivors who had managed to make it to near the entrance but no others were found alive. The survivors were taken for debrief and then released after being given medical care and signing non-disclosure forms. They were all lowly lab techs and support personnel. Most would take their own lives or be committed to hospitals for the insane within a year.
The clean-up of bodies and closure of all of the still standing buildings took several weeks during which time they had to fight off repeated attacks from raptors and other dinosaurs. They updated and secured several of the computers in a watertight interior room to support the satellite cameras before leaving the cave and blowing up the inner entrance. Fury hung his head in sorrow as the remaining vehicles drove away. They had found no trace of his friend Coulson’s body in the cave.
Coulson felt himself being dragged across the ground when he came to. He took a minute to try and remember what had happened before he tried opening an eye. He was dragged for a while further before he was dropped on the ground beside a large rock. Opening his eyes he slowly sat up and found himself in the jungle surrounded by a pack of raptors. Mother approached him and trilled trying to communicate. Slowly he raised himself to sit on the rock as he tried to figure out what she was trying to tell him. Finally, one of the smaller raptors from the pen jumped on his lap and snuggled into him. He decided to take that to mean he was being told he was safe for now and bowed a little towards Mother to let her know he understood.
He watched as Mother directed the others into building a nesting area around him. All of the younger raptors had gathered around him while the work was going on and he took it upon himself to play the babysitter. If they would let him live by fulfilling that role then he was not going to question it. Looking over the younglings he noticed that all of the raptors around him had three scratch line scars down their backs like he had. Looking at the adults he noticed that they all carried the same scar. He realized he was seeing a pack mark and that was how they identified each other. Did the fact that he bore a similar scar make him one of the pack to them?
Coulson settled into his place in the pack as the babysitter to the young. He learned the ways of the pack and how they lived in the jungle. He survived by supplementing his diet through trial and error however he could with the plants around him. After several sever bouts of sickness he began to understand what was edible and what wasn’t. It was a miracle he didn’t manage to kill himself eating the weird vegetation and raw meat. He slowly learned to interpret the trills and screeches and give a close repeat of them to communicate with the members of the pack. He made himself several spears of different lengths to supplement his knives and carried a coiled vine around his shoulders for rope. He made a crude sling shot and pebble bag from the hide of a small stegosaurus the pack had brought down for food. He completed his weapons stash by making himself gloves with long claws in the middle to slash like the raptors claws. Mother was most pleased when she saw him wearing these so he always ensured he had several pair.
He learned to hunt the smaller dinos and frequently fed the younger members of the pack as he watched over them. As his cloths tore away and rotted, he made himself pants from the hides of the dinos they ate. As time passed Mother would scratch the scars on his back as they marked the others to make them more prominent. He came to accept it as a way to reaffirm his place in the pack. It helped that Mother would rub a certain mixture of mud over the wound afterward that kept it from becoming infected.
He traveled to the entrance of the cave once while out hunting one day only to find it had been blasted shut. He was trapped here and had to make the best of it. It was a hard life but he was content to live and the pack became everything to him as his world narrowed.
Fury was back on base finishing up the paperwork after a cluster of a mission when Director Johnson came and found him.
“Fury, I have a job for you,” she told him.
Looking down, he saw that the file she placed before him was the one for The Cave.
“I need someone to close it out,” she said gently knowing he had lost his best friend there. “It has been sitting on the Assistant Director’s desk since the op ended nine months ago and we need to close it. You will have to work with the CIA to ensure that their end has been cleaned up properly and don’t let them dump it all on you even though it would probably be faster.”
Fury just sighed and said he would start on it after he finished up the report he was working on.
“Take 48 hours off first since you just came back from an intense op,” she stated as she walked away. “There is no hurry.”
He finished his reports and then left for home after locking the file for The Cave in his desk. He planned to have plenty to drink to prevent the nightmares seeing that file on his desk would provide.
Fury returned to work on Thursday morning and scheduled himself a small conference room to work in for the next several weeks. He wanted a locked room where he could lay everything out to ensure everything was there and complete. After getting himself a large cup of coffee he proceeded to open the five inch thick file and lay it all out so he could see what he had. He made himself up a to do list as he was going through everything. He pushed all of the paperwork concerning Coulson to the side to be done last.
Over the next several weeks he spent a lot of time at CIA riding the different people he needed to obtain the paperwork he needed. He separated the paperwork covering the deaths of personnel for last. Then he started compiling everything to be meshed with the SHIELD paperwork. It took a month before he had completed everything leaving only the agent closing paperwork on his friend. Seeing that it was already four in the afternoon, he pushed the papers aside and left early. He would say his final goodbye to his friend tomorrow.
When Fury started going over Coulson’s final paperwork the next morning, he noticed that Coulson’s subdermal tracker had never been taken off line. Rising he went to the control tracking room to close it out. As he ask the tech to pull up the tracker and close it the tech told him he would need permission from the Director.
“Why do you need authorization directly from the Director?” Fury asked in anger as he just wanted to get this done.
“Because the tracker is still active sir,” the tech explained.
“But the agent is dead,” Fury went on.
“Sir, no he isn’t,” the man rushed to explained. “Both of you had the new Series IV trackers injected sir. Those monitor a pulse and body temperature as long as the agent is alive.”
“What,” Fury could barely stammer out. Could they have possibly abandoned and trapped Coulson in the cave? “Can you tell if that signal has been constant for the last eleven months?”
“Sure,” he answered as he pulled up a history for the signal. He showed Fury the results. “The signal became weak for a few days about eleven months ago like he was injured but has been strong since then with several spikes for fevers over time.
Fury didn’t even look back as he rushed out of the room. He headed to the Director’s office first.
“Finished yet Fury?” she snapped without looking up.
“No sir, I need to borrow some personnel,” he answered which made her look up at him in a request for more information. “Coulson’s still alive.”
“Are you sure?” she asked before committing anything.
“The tech checked his tracker history. We were both injected with the Series IV models. The signal is consistent and has never been broken. He is alive,” he finished.
“Take Blake and start going through the camera feeds, I want visual confirmation before I consider a rescue plan,” she ordered. “I will call the Communications Director to get you both access to the secured video room.”
It only took them one day to find their first pictures on the cameras of Coulson. He was alone the first time they found a picture of him on video near the carnivore compound but after that they would always see him with at least two raptors or more. He appeared to be living and running with a pack of them. They were able to trace his movements over the last eleven months throughout the cave. They put together a video to show the Director with the last pictures of Coulson taking down a small Triceratops with his raptors that morning.
When the Director saw it she shook her head in wonder. She and everyone in medical had thought Coulson had died especially after he had been injected with the raptor blood. She rewound the video and watched it again this time looking at Coulson himself. She wondered if Fury had noticed the slow decay of Coulson’s health that the video showed. She wondered how much time he had left before the raptors noticed his decline and finished him off or left him to die. Blake and Fury both protested when she told them she would not make a decision on Coulson’s rescue until the next morning. She needed to talk with medical and the psychology department before she would authorize a rescue. Sometime it could be kinder to cut their losses and ignore a situation. But would Fury accept that answer?
Then next morning when they showed up outside her office she told Fury and Blake that a rescue mission had been authorized under strict guideline. They would only be given eight other agents besides themselves (all volunteers) and only had two weeks. If they could not find and rescue Coulson in that time the cave entrance would be blown shut again and they would be trapped in there with him. Accepting the limitations, the two went to work assembling their team and supplies. They flew out the next morning briefing their chosen team on the specifics while on the plane. Later that evening, they blasted a small hole in the interior entrance and re-entered the cave.
Coulson had a fever again but tried not to show he was sick. He had noticed it was happening more often now. He knew his days were numbered and soon he would be killed or left behind to die. He was becoming too weak. It was the way of the pack and he accepted it. The pack had flourished in the time since the break out and he was proud to say he had helped. There had only been two challenges to Mother’s rule from outsiders and she has swiftly killed them both. Her rule was secure and the pack was growing again. Mother’s son, who he called Flathead, was strong and growing well. He was patient and willing to learn which would make him a strong leader when his time came. He had even been able to teach him some small tactics that he used in his hunting. His world was secure and he was happy, and he would be content when it came to an end.
His final self-appoint task was the coming battle. Another bigger raptor pack was trying to drive them out of their choice nesting grounds. After several smaller sneak attacks on both sides, he could see that they were headed for a final big battle soon. Even if he died in the battle he would be happy if the pack won. It would be a good ending. Soon he told himself.
The next sunrise saw the pack taking a trip to the river. It was a good morning to play in the water and teach the little ones to fish. There was also a primitive form of banana there he could eat which would help improve his strength some. Only the youngest and those on nesting or guard duty would stay behind.
He was lazing around in the shallows splashing some of the young ones when the first alarm was whistled. Rising, he moved the young ones into a group further down the beach at the water’s edge. He placed some of the bigger and older younglings around the babies and moved to take up his place at the back of the pack. Slowly the challenging pack of raptors came out of the jungle onto the small beach. After a short stand off a quiet signal was given and the two packs rushed to attack each other.
Coulson did his best to slash with his clawed gloves and knives while avoiding the teeth of the opposing raptors. It was just luck that his pack had covered their skin in mud and it made it easy to tell the raptors apart. He distantly felt it as he received several cuts and scratches from claws but fought on. One time he was grabbed in the jaws of a big raptor and thrown to the ground while his shoulder was torn open but Flathead attacked from the other side and he was able to rise and help finish off the one who had attacked him. He fought on for the survival of his pack, his family.
He noticed the fight ebbing as his strength began to leave him. He was near the water’s edge when he finally fell. Rolling over he thought to watch the sun as he slowly felt his strength fade away. As darkness settled over him he did not see that the battle had ended.
Blake was ordered to stay behind with another man and guard the entrance as Fury led the rest towards the river where the last check of the tracker had shown Coulson’s location to be. Driving as fast as they could they came upon an opening in the jungle and drove along the beach half in the water. Rounding a shallow bend they came upon the battle already under way.
“Good God,” one of the men riding on top of the vehicle said. They stopped the vehicle and stared in shock at the viciousness and ferocity of the battle. “That is just unreal.”
“Can you see Coulson anywhere?” Fury shouted at them as they slowly climbed out of the vehicle. Then he thought to warn the men. “Don’t let the raptors come near you or you will die.”
“Coulson is in the middle of that near the water’s edge,” another called as he looked through binoculars. “He’s bleeding but I can’t tell how bad he is hurt from here.”
Shit, Fury thought as he knew it was suicide to even try and get closer while the battle was going on. He knew he risk hitting Coulson if he ordered the men to open fire. Plus he really didn’t want to notify every dinosaur out there that they were here. It would be like putting a target on their backs.
They watched for another 10 minutes as the battle wound down. They had lost sight of his friend a few minutes ago. Finally, the lighter colored raptors were all down and being torn apart by the darker group. Slowly, one larger raptor came towards them before stopping and staring for a minute. They watched as she turned and walked to the water’s edge where she reached for something. Fury watched as the big raptor dragged an unconscious Coulson near to them. Most of the mud covered raptors followed a small distance behind. His men readied their rifles to fire without being told.
Finally the big raptor stopped about 15 feet away. It set Coulson’s arm down and nudged him once on the side of the head. Then it rose and looked directly at Fury and bowed. After a minute, Fury returned the gesture and then watched as the raptor walked back to the others. Fury handed off his gun and took a deep breath before slowly approaching his friend. Never taking his eyes off of the raptors, Fury reached out and pulled Coulson to him. Pulling him up into his arms, he lifted him into a fireman’s carry position. When he began to slowly back up towards the truck, the big raptor stepped forward several paces and bowed to him again. Then it turned and herded the others off further down the beach.
Taking advantage of a weird situation, Fury turned and ran to place Coulson into the back of the truck while everyone else loaded up. He helped their doctor administer emergency first aid while they turned around and headed back for the entrance and civilization. Looking over his friend’s emancipated body and extended injuries, he wondered if he would ever be the same.
Coulson never woke for the attack of the spiders at the cave’s entrance. The agent they had left behind with Blake had attempted to blast the entrance closed when the spiders attacked. Most of the team died as Fury pulled Coulson through a small opening. Fury was able to pull Blake from the jaws of a spider and through the hole before he threw another stick of dynamite at the hole to close it. He loaded both of the injured men into another truck and drove them to the airport as fast as he dared. After turning them over to doctors on the plane Fury collapsed and slept the whole way back.
“How are they?” Fury asked the Director after he finished his own post op physical. One of the doctor’s on the plane had administered him a sedative to keep him out and he had not woken up until two hours ago.
“Blake’s bite was poisonous put he is responding to treatment,” she began. “He will be here for at least another week as it clears totally out of his system. Besides, the doctors want to monitor him for a while to ensure there are no side effects since it is a poison they have never seen before. He was lucky they found an antidote that worked. He will have nasty scarring on his leg from the bite but will heal otherwise.”
“And Coulson?” he asked quietly.
“He is not doing so well,” the Director stated baldly. “He came through surgery to patch up the cuts and bite wounds fine but he is badly emancipated and sick. He is infested with parasites and worms, many of which the doctors have never seen before. They don’t know what kind of condition he will be in if they can win that fight. Then there is the mental aspects. He came to for a few minutes on the plane. He was totally feral and could only speak in trills and screeches. Our doctor’s will help him all they can but you much accept that he may never make it back to anywhere near what we would consider normal.”
Fury though about that for a moment before asking his last question. “And what are you not telling me?”
The director looked at him for a moment before answering.
“The raptor blood he was injected with has changed his DNA. The doctors do not know how or to what extent yet. They cannot predict what the results of this will be or mean.”
Fury looked at the floor for several minutes as the Director walked away. He made a vow to himself that he didn’t care what the results were, he would stick by his friend’s side and see him through this to whatever the outcome. Phil Coulson had risked all and stuck by his side to help him discovered the truth before they joined SHIELD, he would stick by his side now.
Two years later:
Fury and Blake watched as a still thin Phil Coulson walked out the front doors of the mental institution he had been placed in. It had been a hard fought battle for his friend to regain his humanity but he had done it. Now he was being released to return to duty. It would still be slow going at first but he knew Coulson would make it all of the way back as he returned to work at Fury’s side. Blake smiled at him as he opened the door for Coulson to climb in.
Ten years later:
Fury walked into the staff meeting and threw copies of the newspaper at both Coulson and Blake. Splashed across the front page were pictures of dinosaurs and the heading boldly proclaimed “DINOSAURS RETURN!”
“Oh, I want to go there just to see how real it is,” Agent Hand said excitedly as she caught a glimpse of the papers. “I bet it is all fake.”
“You can have it,” Blake answered as he kept an eye on Coulson. “I will go off grid first before I visit that park.”
“You have no sense of adventure,” Agent Dickerson complain as he pulled one of the papers towards himself.
Coulson discreetly closed his eyes for a minute. They flashed in an eerie odd shape and black color for a few seconds before returning to normal when he opened his eyes again. He left the question as to whether he would go see dinosaurs unanswered when asked.