Chapter 1: A Clean Break
“We can still meet up?” Sarah asked.
“Maybe,” Jenny lied. She might meet up with Connor and Abby, who remembered the team she had joined –Jenny couldn’t help thinking of them as the real team- but not the others, not even when she’d recovered. She couldn’t stay at the ARC; there were far too many memories of Nick there. She needed a clean break.
“I’m sorry,” she said gently to Connor and Abby, “but I had to,” and I’m sorry, she says to Nick’s silent shade, but I had to, and walks out of the ARC for the last time.
Chapter 2: A Good Party
Liz and Juliet are glad that’s over.
“I’m sorry about that,” Juliet apologised, sitting perched on the side of the bath, combing out long blonde hair while Liz scrubbed off her eyeliner. “If I’d known Fiona was going to have that much vodka at her party, I wouldn’t have said I’d go. Or you.” (A pause while she wrenched the comb through a very large tangle.) “Where did she get it from, anyway? I know she’s the oldest in the year, but Jesus Christ... And I’m sorry about Cosimo, or whatever his name was-“
“Don’t worry,” Liz said, with a yawn halfway through the ‘worry’, and poked herself in the eye with the cleanser-soaked cotton wool. “Ow. Actually, punching that tosser was the high point of the night.” She dropped the cotton wool into a bin, and briskly brushed her teeth. “C’mon, let’s get to bed. It’s half past three in the morning, and I’m bloody glad your mum’s out or we’d be for it.”
When Dr. Sayers checked on them at a quarter past seven, having just got back from Beijing, she found them curled up in Juliet’s bed. Juliet had stolen all the covers.
Dr. Sayers concluded that it had been a very good party.
Chapter 3: A Vexed Question
The anomalies have the potential to answer so many questions for the ARC's scientists. (Provided they can hear the replies.)
“Connor? Connor, you’re breaking up. No, it’s definitely you, the anomaly this end has just closed... what was that? Extinction?... Cantankerous? Oh, Cretaceous... wait, Cretaceous extinction event? My God!” Ciarán shivered from both envy and cold. “You lucky bastard! I’ve been herding ammonites in a swimming pool, and you get the Cretaceous extinction event! So-“ He swore loudly, and scowled at the phone.
“What’s the matter?” Dr. Williams asked, eyeing the baby ammonite they’d found just as the anomaly closed and wondering if she could keep it.
“Line broke. Before he told me if it was volcanoes or meteorite strike!”
Chapter 4: At The Going Down Of The Sun
The ARC develops its own traditions.
Every November, there’s a box of poppies at the ARC’s reception desk, and no-one enters without buying one. Connor was the first to write names on his: Stephen, Tom, Ryan – and like many things Connor does it seems bats at first, then obvious. Abby writes the same names on hers, and adds Valerie out of solidarity. Jenny covers hers, front, back and little paper leaf. Lester’s looks blank: the names are scrawled precisely in pencil on the back.
Every November, there’s a box of poppies at the ARC’s reception desk. Every November, there are more names to write on them.
Chapter 5: Under The Thumb
Some people have Blade wrapped around their little finger.
There was a sound of a door unlocking and a clatter as Lorraine crashed into the hallway, carrying a rucksack full of laptop and briefings. Blade put his book down and went into the hall to join her; she was breathless from bicycling home, her skin cold.
“Is Carys in bed?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he answered, kissing her. “She made me read for bloody hours before she’d go to sleep, though. I never want to see another storybook again.”
Lorraine chuckled and leant against him. “She has you wrapped around her little finger, you realise?”
“She takes after her mother...”
Chapter 6: Tall Tales
Stephen and Ryan's son likes the true stories best.
Library Day, Ryan thought to himself as he walked into the school. Stupid thing to make kids do on a Saturday.
Despite the confusing layout, he quickly found the library and Kit, who was dubiously examining a thin book with a tiger on, but when Ryan called his name he looked up, smiled and came over to join him.
“Hey, Kit,” Ryan said. “Good day?”
Kit looked uncertain.
“Are you okay?”
“Are books good? This one’s boring.”
“The right books are good.”
“Oh... Will you tell me about the gorgonospid later?”
Ryan squeezed Kit’s hand. “’Course.”
Chapter 7: The Art Of Chivalry
Lewis may have a seriously epic crush on Beth, but it's never going to happen.
Lewis bumped into her in the hall, and blushed reflexively. “Sorry, Beth.”
“It’s fine,” Beth smiled, shifting the folders of notes in her arms. “I wasn’t looking.”
Lewis shrugged, and nodded at her notes. “Work?”
Beth grimaced. “Tons. I hate A-Levels.”
“I’m bad enough at GCSEs...”
She smiled warmly at him. “You’ll be fine. I’d better go to bed, though, I’m shattered.”
“Um. Okay. Night,” Lewis said, and watched her go.
In fairytales, knights got to fall in love with princesses; but while Beth was definitely a princess, he’d suck at being a knight.
Also, Uncle Kermit would kill him.
Chapter 8: Before The Fall
Hilary only ever wanted his father to be proud of him.
“In here!” Colonel Becker growled, thrusting his son ahead of him into the wood-panelled study and slamming the door shut. “What have you got to say for yourself, Hilary?”
“I- I’m sorry, Father, I thought that was right- what you wanted me to say-“ a boy far too smartly dressed for his age stammered.
“Some things should not be said in company!” Hilary Becker’s father shouted. “Don’t be a fool, Hilary- Oh God damn it, don’t cry. You’re too old to cry. I’m ashamed of you.”
“I thought you were proud of me!”
His father backhanded him across the room.
Chapter 9: Best-Laid Plans
Ross is patient, persistent and prone to mistakes.
There was a bouquet of flowers in a box on the doorstep. Helena approached it as if it was a bomb.
Carefully, she reached out for the tag. It contained a mobile phone number, and the words: I never did give you my number. Ross.
“Persistent bastard,” Helena said aloud, smiling. She copied the number into her own phone, and sneezed.
In Hammersmith, Ross Jenkins’ phone buzzed and he grabbed it, a hopeful grin forming on his face when he saw it was an unknown number.
Thank you for the flowers, the text said. But I have hayfever.
Chapter 10: Blink And You'll Miss It
The family photograph that used to be on Lester's desk, and the one that's there now.
There was a photograph on James Lester’s desk. It was of a family: a mother, a father, and three children. It was posed in a photographer’s studio, the background wiped away to leave five bright figures stamped in white nothingness with no anchors but their shadows; formal and almost impersonal, despite the girl’s scowl and the man’s smirk. It didn’t show half the things there were to say about them. It marked the fierce brilliance on the woman’s face, the youngest boy’s cornflower blue eyes. It said nothing about the fights, the sickness, the hairline cracks gaping wider every day.
There is a photograph on James Lester’s desk. It is of a family: a father, a daughter, and something you might call a stepfather (who cares about labels, the girl’s wild innocent grin proclaims, we don’t need them, and it suits her better than the scowl). It was taken for them on a Cornish beach in the summer, by a girl walking her dog. It’s enshrined in a gaudy novelty frame, and it doesn’t show half the things there are to say about them. But it shows lasting love and the ties that bind, and maybe that’s all they need.
Chapter 11: Bodice-Ripping In Theory And Practice
Abby is operating under a misapprehension.
“I didn’t know you liked those,” Abby observed, giggling at Jenny’s book.
“Shut up,” Jenny said defensively, taking the book from her. “I have all her books. I find them less stressful than dinosaurs.”
Abby rolled onto her back on the bed, looking up at Jenny with cheeky laughter on her face. “What, even with all the heaving bosoms and throbbing manhoods? I didn’t think you were interested in manhoods, anyway.”
“Oh, I really am not.” Jenny curled a hand into Abby’s hair and kissed the pulse point under her jaw. “And there’s nothing like that in Georgette Heyer, anyway.”
Chapter 12: Here's To Liz
James Lester and his brothers contemplate the latest addition to the family.
“She’s a sweetheart, James,” Ralph complimented, holding his tiny niece and looking down at her slightly dotingly. “I can’t wait till she gets old enough to come caving with me.”
Lester removed a newly-christened Elizabeth Alison Lester from his brother’s arms. “Over my dead body.”
“I just hope she’s not claustrophobic,” Ralph mused, undeterred.
“James and Kathy’s kid?” Theo, the youngest of the Lester brothers, snorted. “She’s not going to be afraid of anything.” He snaffled some champagne, and lifted it for a toast. “Here’s to Elizabeth- Oh, to hell with it. Elizabeth is far too long. Here’s to Liz!”
Chapter 13: Change Of Ownership
The sun had set long ago and Rex shifted and fluttered in his cage. He was hungry. His girl and her boy hadn’t come back.
Rex waited until the sun had set and risen again, cheeping with hunger. Eventually a human came, a man who looked old and tired. He had blue eyes like Rex’s girl, so must have been from the same flock, but the markings around his eyes were reddish, weaker than Rex’s girl’s black ones. Shushhh, Recks, he murmured. Shush.
He fed Rex so Rex was not hungry, but Rex’s girl and her boy never came back.
Chapter 14: Cupboard Love
Juliet is clearly only going out with Liz for the cake.
“Ooh, cake,” Juliet said happily, noticing the sponge-cake on the table as she came in. “What are we celebrating?”
Liz shrugged. “I don’t know. I just felt like it. Ballet go well?”
“Brilliantly.” Juliet dropped her bag on the floor. “I’ll tell you about it later.”
“You mean when you’ve had a slice of cake,” Liz snickered, and shook her head. “I knew you were only dating me for my cooking.”
Juliet punched her on the arm. “Oi. I’m insulted. I’m not just dating you for your cooking.”
“No?” Liz teased. Juliet grinned.
“’Course not- I like your looks, too.”
Chapter 15: Speaking Ill Of The Dead
Lorraine can't bring herself to celebrate Leek's death.
“He’s gone, Lorraine.” Sir James Lester’s voice is unaccustomedly nice as he speaks to the woman sitting at her desk, staring at Oliver Leek’s last memo.
“Yes. I know.”
“I would have thought that you would be glad. I know he made life difficult for you.” So he did know about the extra workload, the snide comments.
“Glad? He was torn to pieces an-“
Lester sighs. “Lorraine. Go home; get a decent night’s sleep. Or join Jenny, if you like. But don’t stay here, and don’t even think about clearing out Leek’s desk. I’ll get someone else to do it.”
Chapter 16: Can He Fix It?
In the middle of a minor domestic crisis, Abby realises she's missed an anniversary.
“You know something?” Abby said, jumping down from the chair she’d stood on while replacing a light bulb.
“Yeah?” Connor replied from where he was attacking the fusebox. “You done with that light bulb?”
“Yeah,” Abby confirmed, and waited.
Connor flicked a switch, the lights went on, and he appeared, grinning. “Just call me Mister Fix-it.”
“Hi, Bob the Builder. Connor, do you realise you’ve been living here for a year?”
“Oh? Oh yeah.” Connor’s face fell. “Why? Do you want me to move out?”
“No! No, it’s fine. I just mentioned it.”
“OK.” Connor smiled tentatively. “Takeaway to celebrate?”
Chapter 17: Slàinte
Stephen knows how to deal with Nick.
“And that blasted Government-“
“We’re all alive,” Stephen said soothingly, passing Nick his glass of whisky.
“-no idea, this can change everything we thought we knew about dinosaurs, and we can’t tell anyone! This could be the single most significant-“
“Miss Brown seems all right,” Stephen interrupted, smiling fondly as Nick failed to hear him, too busy rambling explosively.
“-discovery ever in the history-“
“Pink sparkly snowflakes.”
“-I mean- What?”
Stephen laughed. “Never mind. We’re all alive and unharmed, and that’s enough for now. Drink your whisky.”
“Slàinte,” Nick said, wondering what on earth snowflakes had to do with it.
Chapter 18: Clearing And Adjustment
Lester isn't in this alone.
The scraping sound of the key in the lock told him his daughter had arrived before she yelled that she was home, voice rebounding off the walls of a flat too recently empty. He called an acknowledgement, but did not move, sipping his brandy and reading through the dense legal type methodically, robotically.
“That’s the decree thing,” Liz remarked.
He nodded. “Decree nisi.”
There was an uncomfortable pause.
“It’s going to be fine.”
He stopped and looked at her, straight-backed and strong and stubborn-faced, burning with uncertainty and determination, and a smile tugged at his mouth. “You may be right.”
Chapter 19: Clocking On
Lester comes in to work.
Lester parked the Mercedes neatly and walked up into the ARC, narrowly avoiding the night shift. Norman was up a stepladder, replacing fluorescent bulbs and cursing the Heavenly Host, and Captain Becker was assaulting the photocopier.
Lester walked up the ramp and unlocked his office door, sauntering inside and laying his briefcase down; the lights and computer were on, and his in-tray had been refilled. Miss Wickes appeared, and handed over a cup of coffee.
“Another dawn, another day, Miss Wickes,” Lester observed, sipping the coffee appreciatively. “And I shall not ask how you got into my locked office. Again.”
Chapter 20: Playing At Consequences
A romantic/tipsy/inevitable kiss has a lucky/unpredictable/disastrous consequence, and it’s the best thing that could have happened/terribly sad/a friendship-breaker in the making.
Stephen couldn’t forget the first kiss he shared with Nick. They were both tipsy, and Nick tasted of whiskey when Stephen leaned forward and pressed his lips to Nick’s. Nick had drawn back, blushing adorably, and they had both got very drunk indeed- so Nick had forgotten everything.
The good thing was that Nick stopped sinking into depression.
The bad thing was that Stephen could never find the courage to repeat the experiment.
The worst thing was that Stephen was now certain he could never tell Nick about him and Helen- so the first kiss was the last kiss, too.
Chapter 21: Constant Vigilance
It was the way Becker liked to know where they were that clued Abby in. He’d drop in on Connor at the ADD, or hover around Sarah and the artefact, and he only visited the holding pens during her shifts. Coming out of the bathroom, scrubbed clean after mucking out, she caught him red-handed – theoretically watching a litter of shastas, but actually watching the bathroom door reflected in the glass.
“What is it with you?” Abby asked, and he winced. “Do you think we’re all going to disappear?”
“That’s exactly what I’m afraid of,” Becker said.
Abby couldn’t blame him.
Chapter 22: Overheard In Battersea
Because not even Jon can break a terracotta flowerpot quietly, and Liz and Juliet aren’t that deep sleepers.
In the bedroom down the corridor, Juliet drifted awake. “Whassat?” she mumbled, knowing that Liz would be more alert.
“Jon,” Liz murmured, curling tighter around her girlfriend. “Comes up here every weekend. Breaks flowerpots...”
Liz yawned and shrugged. “DLF’s a bigger problem.”
“Dowager Lady Fanshawe. Lives in the flat below. Nice lady. Pearls and gin?”
“Oh... What, she might proposition him?“
“Ew! No! She might set him up with her oldest granddaughter.”
“Fate worse’n death,” Juliet muttered.
“Go back to sleep,” Liz advised, burying her face in Juliet’s hair. “Before Dad and Jon get noisy.”
Chapter 23: Definitely Dead
There's not much else to say about it, really.
The creature lay there, monumental, blubbery, unidentifiable, reeking and –thank God or Jenny’s personal guardian angel- in a remote part of the country, so no-one had spotted it yet. Jenny sighed, and wondered how exactly eight tons of dead prehistoric thingy were going to be disposed of.
Sarah Page, wearing an expression that someone ought to capture in the name of Youtube and the public interest, picked up a stick and prodded it. “Do you think it’s dead?” she said doubtfully.
“No,” Jenny said witheringly, stamping back towards the Jeeps, “it’s pining for the fjords. Honestly, what do you think?”
Chapter 24: Descríbeme Tu Familia
Uncle Ralph’s plumbing is temperamental and Liz’s Spanish homework is not getting done.
Descríbeme tu familia. Describe your family.
Liz tapped the chewed biro against her lip, thought for a moment, and started to write. She was wearing a heavy jumper, warm jeans and thick socks and had Spanish homework in front of her. Down the corridor, she could hear Jon attempting to use the shower, and wished him luck; the plumbing in her Uncle Ralph’s permanent-state-of-collapse house was notorious for a reason.
The sound of the shower was abruptly cut off, filthy swearwords issued from the bathroom and there was a bellow of “Liz!”
Tengo un familia un poco extraño. Mis padres son divorciados, y vivo con mi padre y su novio. I have a slightly strange family. My parents are divorced, and I live with my father and his boyfriend.
Liz removed one iPod earphone and bawled, “What, Jon?”
“How do you make the shower work here? Your uncle’s plumbing’s a nightmare!”
“Not a clue!”
“Can you get James to fix it?” Jon yelled, shivering slightly in the draught.
“No! I’m busy!”
“What are you doing?”
“Spanish! Questions for the oral exam! Describing your family, and that! Look, try bashing the showerhead against the wall. That works sometimes...”
Chapter 25: De Mortuis
Lester reflects on Leek.
Leek had certainly kept his secrets quiet, Lester thought. There was never anything about him to suggest that he was anything other than a slightly sleazy, moderately competent bureaucrat. If Lester had had to make a guess as to his workplace peccadilloes, he’d have chosen sexual harassment or embezzling – and given the stories the junior members of the ARC were telling, and the ARC’s holey accounts, both applied.
He sat in his ruined office and supervised the repairs. They were back in business, and next time, Lester would act on his guesses – if only because they might be hiding something worse.
Chapter 26: Safekeeping
Abby thought she was safe.
It took years, but Abby managed to forget she’d ever had a father who died, or a mother who died later, or a stepfather who didn’t die at all. She cut her ties to everything she used to be, legally changed her name from Gail to Abigail and told people she was called Abby. Maitland was a common-enough surname, and nobody would be looking for dark-haired Gail in bleach-blonde Abby. She made herself strong, sensible and professional, and walled off all her memories of being a daughter and a sister.
Just as she was beginning to feel safe, Jack found her.
Chapter 27: A Moral Compass Pointing Due North-East
Kathy takes up residence on the moral high ground.
Kathy was never quite sure if she hated James or not. Sometimes she felt trapped by him, as if James Lester’s ex-wife would be the only thing people ever remembered about her.
Still, she was clear on one thing: she had integrity. So when some smooth-talking cow with several miles of cleavage started flirting and asking very pointed questions about James, Kathy simply pointed out that her bra was too small and departed.
Then, glowing with her own righteousness, she rang James and left a message telling him about it.
She always did like to occupy the moral high ground.
Chapter 28: Give No Quarter
Sir James has overlooked Christine. (Claudia hasn't.)
It was unfortunate that Sir James didn’t believe her about Christine Johnson, but if the rumours were true – and Claudia had heard a lot of rumours – he had a bad habit of underestimating her. One that was evidently coming back to haunt him.
Claudia curled up on her sofa and thought, a glass of wine lolling in her hand. Losing Nick and Ryan two years ago had been a blow, but it had turned the anomaly project into something she wasn’t prepared to surrender.
There was a way past Christine and her machinations, and Claudia fully intended to find it.
Chapter 29: Bite Your Tongue
Connor's never been very tactful.
“I knew you would come back for me,” Connor exclaimed, tumbling through the anomaly as it reopened, leading the anomaly team gathered round to heave a giant sigh of relief, followed by another as Blade came through too.
No-one had doubted Blade’s ability to survive, Major Ryan noted. His ability to survive without stabbing Connor to shut him up was different.
“And we weren’t gone long, right?” Connor babbled, and Ryan couldn’t stop himself from glancing over at the one member of the team who didn’t belong in this timeline.
The woman calling herself Lisa Lewis had already turned away.
Chapter 30: If Nature Blesses You From Top To Bottom
... then show that top to bottom, don't think twice. Caroline is on a mission to conquer Lorraine's wardrobe.
“I thought we were shopping for you?” Lorraine said, adorably stunned, when Caroline selected the dress and pushed her towards the changing-rooms.
You would look edible in this, Caroline didn’t say. It was a lilac summer dress, light material that would cling to Lorraine’s figure and silver beading emphasising the neckline. Instead, she said: “Your wardrobe doesn’t do you justice. Just try it.”
“I don’t think I can wear it,” Lorraine confessed on reappearing. “It’s so low-cut.”
She had pulled the dress up slightly, ruining the effect. Caroline yanked it down again. “If you got it, flaunt it.”
Chapter 31: Occupational Hazards
Lester shoots himself in the foot, budget-wise.
Covered in blood and mud, red hair a wretched tangle, black-rimmed glasses at a rakish angle, the civilian sat on the bed in the infirmary answering Rees’s questions – and sometimes, by the look on Rees’s face, answering back. All the medics were used to cheek and insolence, however, and Rees appeared to be getting the necessary information out of her.
Lester turned to Jenny. “Jenny, I thought you said we’d acquired a vet, not a ragamuffin.”
Helena Ramsey dispensed a glare that would have sent the most toothsome of Alsatians yelping for its mummy, and decided to increase her prices.
Chapter 32: Speaking In Tongues
Lester engages in a little entente cordiale.
“Ici, le possible, c’est déja fait,” the bureaucrat said grandly, conducting Lester into the French anomaly project headquarters. “L’impossible, c’est en train, et pour les miracles, il sera un delai de 48 heures.”
Here, the possible is already complete, Lester translated as his colleague displayed a familiar-looking machine and rhapsodised about groundbreaking technology, we’re working on the impossible, and miracles take 48 hours.
“An anomaly detector,” Lester exclaimed. “Wonderful! Rather more streamlined than ours, but Temple did prioritise functionality in his invention. I’d hoped that he’d have attended to the aesthetics by now, it’s been two years, but never mind…”
Chapter 33: The More You Know
Christine thought the anomaly project’s employees were submissive, easily cowed, drab little people enlivened by a few useful careerists who didn’t mean to drown in the wake of James Lester’s failure. She snapped at them and watched them shiver. Smiled at them, and watched them bask in hope.
She underestimated every last one of them, including the beauteous Captain Becker and his professional smile, and she didn’t even know it until she was escorted out and they closed ranks behind her, smiling and laughing and applauding Lester as if she had never existed.
As a workplace, the ARC encouraged resilience.
Chapter 34: Bribery And Corruption
Look, if her boss and his boyfriend are going to be crashingly indiscreet and derail Lorraine's work, she's damn well going to get something out of it.
Blade came back from a nasty week in the Brecon Beacons to find Lorraine lounging on the sofa in her flat, sipping a glass of wine and nibbling on the contents of a box of chocolates.
“Where did those come from?” he demanded, knowing Lorraine would prefer to delay physical demonstrations of affection until after a shower.
“A thank–you from Lester,” Lorraine said imperturbably, and held a chocolate to his lips. He raised his eyebrows, but ate it. “Lieutenant Lyle’s office sex habit is paying dividends.”
Blade smirked. “Oh, really?”
“Mm-hm. Discretion is everything in the Civil Service, you know…”
Chapter 35: Leave It To The Professionals
Animal welfare comes first.
“Trouble,” Connor announced.
“What sort of trouble?” the vet enquired distantly, tidying up a very small and thankfully unconscious triceratops. “Abby, obs, please.”
Abby reeled off numbers.
“Defra,” Connor said. “Demanding to see…”
“No,” the vet said definitely.
“Tell them to go away,” Abby said, tweaking the mask helping the triceratops breathe, or stay unconscious, or – or something.
“Jenny’s working on it,” Connor said doubtfully, wondering how they’d managed to filter out the sound of Jenny politely wrangling with the Defra representatives.
“It’ll be fine,” Abby soothed absently.
The vet tied off a stitch. “Bugger off, would you? We’re busy.”
Chapter 36: Eminently Practical
Claudia Brown can't be doing with spiders.
Abby wasn’t the sort of woman who would scream at the sight of a spider. Claudia Brown patently was. Fortunately for Abby’s opinion of her, she was also the sort of woman who proceeded to whip off a shoe and beat the spider to kingdom come.
“That was impressive,” Abby said, signally failing to hide her amusement.
“My boarding school,” Claudia said, hopping on one foot as she put her shoe back on the other, “was infested.” She gave Abby a lopsided smile. “I developed a coping strategy.”
“Unfortunately, it doesn’t work on dinosaurs. Now, where were we?”
Chapter 37: Drinking On The Job
On the other side of the Permian anomaly, Claudia Brown is numb with loss.
The anomaly had closed. No-one had come back through, least of all Nick or Captain Ryan.
Twelve hours later, Claudia had sent Abby home with a distraught Stephen, while she and Lester returned to London to make a few arrangements. Connor refused to leave, reasoning that the anomaly had recurred after Helen first disappeared, and might recur again.
Claudia, trailing Sir James into his office, thought Connor was probably wrong.
Sir James retrieved a hipflask from a desk drawer. He drank, and then offered it to Claudia.
“That’s not very professional,” Claudia said, hating herself.
Sir James flinched. “Stuff professionalism.”
Chapter 38: Exfiltration
Ryan peels Lester away from his computer.
Lester was half-asleep, but jerked awake at the sound of Ryan entering his office. “Tom?”
“Time to go, James,” Ryan said. “The night shift have been on two hours.”
“I’ll be done in a moment.”
Ryan shook his head. “I know your moments, James. We’re going.”
“I can’t just –“
“Yes, you can.”
Lester sighed in exasperation and focussed his eyes on his monitor just as it went black, having been unplugged. “Tom!”
“I’ll make it up to you,” Ryan promised. “Come on. I want us to get back in time to eat something, and Liz worries when you’re late.”
Chapter 39: Fields Of Gold
Given her track record, sometimes it's just good to know Liz is safe.
Luka prompted me 'Liz/Juliet, father dear father'.
Lester knocked at his daughter’s door, and, when there was no response, pushed it open a crack. He smiled involuntarily.
Liz was lying in bed, one arm holding her girlfriend close, and tangled thoroughly in blankets and loose blonde hair, mixing and snarling with Liz’s dark hair. The sun fell over them, filtering through the material of Liz’s blinds, lending a soft glow to the girls’ skin and gilding Liz’s soft, unconscious smile.
Waking, Liz cracked an eye open, and seeing him pushed herself up on one elbow. “Dad?”
Lester smiled. “Nothing,” he said. “Just glad to know you’re alive.”
Chapter 40: Return
This time, Blade comes back to Lorraine.
It was Mikey from the flat below who let Lorraine know that “Your psycho boyfriend’s back, sweetie.” She ran down the stairs and found Blade standing awkwardly in the hall- whereupon she realised she didn’t know what to do. She’d never seen him just after an op before; he looked so tired.
She approached him, reaching out to touch him, and he pulled her into his arms, holding her tightly for a long moment before he whispered “I missed you” in her ear.
“Yeah,” she murmured, voice cracking when she remembered worrying that he might never come back. “Me too.”
Chapter 41: First Impressions
They don't take to each other, at first.
The first time Blade saw Jenny Lewis, it was from a distance and he was exhausted, so he assumed she was just a PR woman who probably wouldn’t bother him. The first time Jenny Lewis saw Blade, she wrote him off as a slightly scary but very competent soldier and left it at that.
It took a while and a few near-death experiences for Blade to work out that Jenny was clever and brave and a damn good shot, and for Jenny to work out that Blade wasn’t the knife-wielding psycho office rumour labelled him, but it was worth it.
Chapter 42: Flattery Will Get You Everywhere
The single biggest lie Oliver Leek was ever told.
It was the creed he lived his life by, useless to him in the end. It commanded the way he dressed, the way he talked, the way he acted, so that he scarcely showed an original thought of his own. It was supposed to fuel his rise to power, and instead he was hated by colleagues and inferiors he scorned and bullied, disdained by a superior who only seemed to value those who answered back, and killed in a mess of cowardice, blood and failure.
Teachers and parents – never friends – all lied to Oliver Leek: flattery didn’t get him anywhere.
Chapter 43: Forward Planning
Lyle's mother is engaged in a plot of her own.
“I,” Julia Denton announced, sipping the bellini her son’s stepdaughter had brought her, “am getting married.”
Liz collapsed onto the lawn and cracked open a beer. “Really? Does Jon know?”
“So why are you telling me?– oh, my God!” Liz shot upright. “No! No! I will not be a sodding bridesmaid! Are you nuts?”
Julia rolled her eyes. “Don’t be ridiculous. As it happens, I’m bored of getting married normally; I intend to elope.” She tapped her nails on the arm of the sun-lounger, smirking in anticipation of mayhem. “And I need you to drive the getaway car.”
Chapter 44: Getting Rid Of Temptation
Oscar Wilde said that the only way to get rid of temptation was to yield to it.
“I’m working,” Jenny protested, running a hand through her hair and blinking at Sarah.
“I know. You have been for the past five hours. You need a break.” Sarah smiled winningly, every bit of her body language entreating Jenny to step away from the computer, just for a moment.
Jenny rubbed her temples. “Sarah, honestly, I don’t have time.”
“You should make some,” Sarah said easily, pushing away from the doorjamb and swaggering over to Jenny. The top buttons of her shirt were undone.
“It’s a Christmas party, Jen. It’s fun. Your work can wait.”
Jenny gave in.
Chapter 45: Home Sweet Home
There are more ordinary frustrations in life than dinosaurs.
“Home, sweet home,” Claudia murmured, unlocking the door.
“Bloody door.” She shoved it, and the door burst open and hit the wall with a bang; Claudia fell over.
“Ouch. Bloody, bloody door.” She picked herself up, and slammed the door shut; it had marked the blue paint. Claudia just sighed.
It was times like these that Claudia really wanted her parents; her father’s encyclopaediac knowledge of DIY and her mother’s endless cups of tea and comfort. Or possibly, she reflected, she just needed a Yellow Pages- surely there was someone in London who could fix that bloody door?
Chapter 46: In Harmony
Liz's youngest brother understands better than she thinks.
“You want me to put what where?”
“It’s an amp, not a bomb,” Nicky sighed. “Put the blue wire in the blue hole. Yes. See? Simple.”
Liz swore at him. “All this fuss for a guitar.”
Nicky inhaled strongly, and changed the subject. “What’s Lyle like?”
“Him? He’s fine.” Liz shrugged. “I get on better with him than I do with Mum.”
“There are Martians that get on with Mum better than you do.”
“I won’t have that my-daughter-isn’t-really-gay thing she keeps trying,” Liz snapped.
Nicky bit his lip, looking embarrassed.
Liz cuffed him gently. “It’s not your fault. Brat.”
Chapter 47: Introduction
ARC, meet Caroline. Caroline, meet ARC. She's new, so be nice to her.
Lorraine Wickes is the most competent person at the ARC. There are few who can keep up with Connor Temple’s coding, manage Lester and name nearly all of the ARC personnel off the top of her head.
Lorraine’s a neutral person- that’s why she’s handling this: there aren’t many people in the ARC who’ll be friendly to this conscript. Everyone knows that she was forced to join their world of dinosaurs, deceit and derring-do, and they know why, too.
Lorraine glances sideways at the young woman, who is staring, open-mouthed, at her new workplace. “Welcome to the ARC, Miss Steel.”
Chapter 48: Anchor
Tea leaves much to be desired, but it's real, and Lester needs that.
It was scalding hot; it burnt his lips and tongue. It was too strong, and there was too much sugar in it, and the polystyrene cup was not substantial enough to keep it from being too hot in his hands. The teabag had been stewed- he could tell- and it was probably Lipton’s or something, not proper tea. He didn’t like tea anyway, never drank it- he always preferred coffee.
But it was real and familiar: it belonged to a world where crazed attack bats were the stuff of science fiction and nothing more.
So Lester drank down every drop
Chapter 49: Just Passing Through
Liz Lester encounters the Tethys and finds herself all at sea.
This drabble was originally so uncooperative that I wrote it as a ficlet and trimmed it down from there. The ficlet remains in my Liz Lester series, for interest and amusement.
The traveller stepped through the anomaly, and her jaw dropped. She had climbed a small mountain to get here; she was now standing on a patch of land surrounded by the sea!
She spun around, examining her surroundings and seeing only the sea and sky. She regularly darted through anomalies, looking for one that led home, and although she invariably felt disappointed when she didn’t walk into a twenty-first century landscape, the places she visited fascinated her.
Liz spotted an oncoming predator, and hurried back to the Cretaceous Period; there was such a thing as overstaying your welcome, after all.
Chapter 50: Knight In Shining Armour
You can always count on Becker for a dramatic rescue.
Sarah flung herself against the door and pounded on it; it held firm. “Help!” she yelled, and thumped the door again. “Help!” Footsteps approached, and she continued shouting until she heard a familiar voice.
“Sarah, the sooner you stop shouting and get away from the door, the sooner Sergeant Fraser and I can kick it down. You standing back?”
“Yes,” she called, watching the door break apart with satisfaction and stepping gingerly out, avoiding splinters. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome,” Becker said, propelling her quickly towards the end of the corridor. “Let’s go before Dr. Cutter and her mates get back, hm?”
Chapter 51: Lost Property
Blade should take better care of his things.
“Oi, Blade,” Finn greeted his friend, and waved a hand at the table without taking his eyes off the television. “Somebody left you something.”
Blade went over to the table, and realised that one of his knives, one he’d had for a long time and had thought he’d lost in the attack on the ARC, was lying there- and it had a yellow Post-It note attached to it, written by someone who had tiny, clear handwriting.
Cpl. Richards, I think this belongs to you. I found it under my desk. Lorraine Wickes.
Blade suspected he had some explaining to do.
Chapter 52: Lullaby
Lullabies get passed down.
Tom Temple was always a quiet baby, but his sister Nicola was not. She shrieked, and she screamed, and she never slept the night through.
One night, the crying woke Connor before it did Abby. He muttered something, got up and shambled into the next room; there was a faint sound of singing, and the noise abated.
“What were you singing?” she demanded when he got back.
“S’called King Henry,” Connor mumbled, and added, suddenly serious, “My dad sang it to me to make me sleep.”
Abby swallowed. “I’m surprised you remember. How old were you-“
“When he died? Three.”
Chapter 53: Never Gets Old
Anomalies remind you of what it was like in the past, and that's not always a pleasant thing.
I don't at all mean to imply that people wouldn't use this slur today, or that it would be somehow reclaimed, or less nasty. I meant to suggest that the stone-throwing would be infinitely less likely.
“Are you feeling better?” Lorraine asked, setting aside reports and looking at Sarah, who was fingering her scarf, her dark eyes missing their usual spark.
Sarah looked up. “What? Oh. Yes. It was just- a shock.”
“It would have been,” Lorraine said, sipping her coffee. “Nobody expects a hail of stones.”
Sarah winced, and rotated her sore shoulder. “I minded the words more.”
“It’s easy to forget what people were like in the past,” Lorraine murmured, rebooting her sluggish computer. “Anomalies... remind you.”
Sarah rolled her eyes, and her stern face came to life with sarcasm. “’Paki’ never gets old.”
Chapter 54: Nicotine Withdrawal Blues
Stuck on a dull field trip, shivering on the walkway at Kew Gardens and suffering for lack of a cigarette, one of Liz’s classmates considers her and Juliet.
“It’s cold,” Liz said unnecessarily.
“I want a fag,” Simon complained.
“Shut up,” Amandeep muttered.
“I hate heights,” Juliet whimpered, burying her face in Liz’s shoulder.
“This is educational,” their teacher said, rounding on them, “and Simon, I’m not supposed to know you smoke!”
“Sorry, miss,” Simon sighed, and glanced over the side of the wooden walkway, high above the ground at Kew. It was a long way down.
He glanced at Liz, who was one of his best mates, but who got soft around Juliet. “Miss? If I’m not allowed to smoke, why’re Liz and Juliet allowed to snog?”
Chapter 55: Life In The Fast Lane
On Claudia's advice, Lorraine takes a new job.
Lorraine climbed out of the car, and slammed the door. Ryan ignored her in favour of explaining to Lester why he had to be in the Forest of Dean on a Sunday.
“Lorraine?” Claudia laid cool fingers on her shoulder. “Are you all right?”
“You did not tell me Sir James drove like that,” Lorraine said, teeth gritted. “I feel sick.”
“It was an emergency,” Claudia said apologetically. “I’m sorry, your first day on the job, too...”
“Miss Wickes, are you fit to do your job?” Lester demanded.
Lorraine gave him a filthy look. “Whenever you ask me to, sir.”
Chapter 56: Any Other Business
'Normal' is a pretty low bar around the ARC.
James Lester eyed the stack of paperwork Lorraine was holding out to him. “That’s... rather extensive, Miss Wickes. Have there been any disasters I wasn’t aware of?”
Reminder from CCTV operators that there were cameras on the underground car-park, which made having sex in there a very bad idea.
Note from Professor Cutter requesting permission to name the latest hitherto-unknown dinosaur - a vicious raptor - after Lester.
Complaint from Dr. Butterworth about noise from the office Ciarán O’Murphy, Abby and Connor shared, which was a problem only if you disliked the All American Rejects.
“Nothing unusual, sir,” she said.
Chapter 57: Official Toothbrushes
They may as well make it official.
Jon Lyle was accustomed to many things. Encountering a pretty blonde teenager in pyjamas in his boyfriend’s flat was not one of them.
He simply stared for a moment, and then Liz appeared in a t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms, looking half-awake, and slid an arm around the teenager, at which point Lyle finally recognised the girl as Liz’s girlfriend. Juliet Sayers murmured something inaudible to Liz, and then vanished into Liz’s bedroom.
“Morning,” Liz said inaccurately. It was twelve o’clock exactly. “What’s up?”
“I’m moving in.”
Liz yawned. “Does this mean you officially have a toothbrush in Dad’s bathroom now?”
Chapter 58: One Rubicon, Successfully Crossed
Abby's not the only one with insecurities.
Abby always leaves, and Claudia always wakes alone.
Claudia knows why. It’s not that she’s ashamed of Abby; she just doesn’t know how to come out in the professional world. But however she justifies it, she knows that Abby leaves because Claudia insists on ‘discretion’.
It’s a short-lived attitude: sooner or later, Abby will lose patience. And really, Claudia is much more frightened of losing Abby than anything else.
Tonight Claudia wakes as Abby’s dressing, and opens her eyes and makes her choice.
Abby stills. “People will guess.”
“I don’t care.”
It’s the most sensible thing she’s ever said.
Chapter 59: Out, Damned Spot
Michael tries to patch things up. Jenny, fresh from Leek's house of horrors, is less than receptive.
Michael calls her because he wants to talk, but Jenny suspects he just wants the ring back. She takes it to be appraised, then agrees to a meeting in a café.
He apologises for being late. Jenny tells him it doesn’t matter.
He says that she seemed to change suddenly. That he became stressed, irrational. That it all snowballed into something he now regrets. Apparently he has spoken to his therapist on the subject.
Jenny sips her coffee, saying nothing. Her hands are stained with blood that never touched them, and Michael would never understand that.
She pays and leaves.
Chapter 60: Outside Perspective
A quiet Saturday afternoon.
Blade sits on the sofa in his house, watching the match and letting Lorraine sleep on his shoulder while Ross and Finn howl at the telly and Matt peacefully reads the paper.
Lorraine shifts in her sleep, and he turns his head slightly, pressing his lips against the top of her head and wondering how this got to be a normal Saturday afternoon. Matt catches his eye and smiles in a way that reminds Blade that Matt is a complete softie sometimes. On principle, Blade scowls, and Matt smirks and mouths so fucking adorable.
“Sod off,” Blade says out loud.
The risks of falsifying one's CV.
“This one... this one is odd.” Lorraine flipped open the appropriate file. “Matt Anderson.”
Lester leaned back in his chair and raised an eyebrow. “Ah yes... Everest.”
“Quite. Worse, he recognised me.”
“He bumped into me on the way out and called me by name.”
“There’s no chance he could know you by repute?”
Lester pinched the bridge of his nose. “He’s Burton’s favourite. But – how does he know all this? The Stegosaurus footage didn’t even touch him! Where is he getting his information?”
“I suppose we could ditch him on the grounds that he’s over-qualified?”
Chapter 62: Visitors.
Nick has some unusual visitors at CMU. The Dean objects.
“Cutter!” the Dean bawled. “There’s a dragon on the lawn!”
Nick raised an eyebrow. “Well, it’s a citizen. It’s got a right to be there. And we do have some dragon students.”
“It’s not a student. Would I be complaining about a student? It’s just some dragon, which, Cutter, is asking for you!”
“Yes, really! And it’s got soldiers on its back!”
“Oh really,” Nick repeated, glancing at Stephen. “I think we’d better have a look, then.”
He breezed past the Dean, and Stephen hid his grin as he followed. This was a good start to the day.
Chapter 63: Patience Is A Virtue
Lyle isn't very virtuous.
“Ballet,” Lyle said in disgust. “Sleeping Beauty.”
“You were enjoying it,” Lester said calmly. “I know you were.”
“I was not.”
“You were riveted,” was the answer. “True, you looked quite bored at first, but-“
Lyle eyed him for a moment, deciding how to interrupt, and then kissed him.
Lester smiled, and murmured in Lyle’s ear: “Was that intended to persuade me that this conversation would be better finished at home?”
Lyle nodded, and Lester chuckled and retreated a step, grinning evilly.
“You know, patience is a virtue.”
Lyle’s eyes narrowed, and Lester laughed outright. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Jon.”
Chapter 64: Poor Weather Conditions On The M4
Lester refuses to drive in this weather.
It started to snow.
“That is the last straw,” Lester announced, glowering at the driving rain turning to mushy snow and making visibility worse than it had been already; they had slowed to a snail’s pace on the motorway some time ago. “Absolutely the last straw. I am not driving in this a moment longer!”
“Pull over, then,” Lyle said, and Lester did so.
“British weather,” he said disdainfully, turning the heating up. “I can tell you now it won’t stop for the next hour.”
“Yeah,” Lyle agreed, “and we’ll have to do something to keep ourselves warm and occupied...”
Chapter 65: Ex-Directory
Becker's telephone manners vary with his audience.
Hilary answers his phone with one word. Usually it’s just ‘Becker’. If it’s Lorraine calling, it’s ‘love’.
This time it’s ‘How did you get this number,’ and the instant tension in Hilary’s voice grabs her attention.
“That’s unethical and you know it. Further... further – I told you not to contact me... That’s not up for discussion. I don’t care – don’t you dare use her like that. Don’t you fucking dare. Yes, I said that. Don’t call me again.”
Hilary drops the phone into the sink and drags clenched hands through his hair.
“That was my father.”
Lorraine’s blood runs cold.
Chapter 66: A Cat May Look At A Queen
Claudia keeps pets too.
Bloody cat, Claudia thought, tripping over Jerry as she opened the door and tried to usher Abby in. The cat wound round her ankles, purring, and Abby laughed. Claudia blushed.
“Stupid moggy,” she muttered, bending down to stroke him. Jerry rubbed his face against her hand, then went off to twine against Abby.
“You talk to your cat?”
“Yes,” Claudia admitted guiltily.
“He’s lovely. What’s his name?”
Claudia turned round, and saw that Abby was already cuddling Jerry, smiling. “Um. Jerry.”
Abby’s blue eyes sparkled. “Not Tom?”
“No.” Claudia cleared her throat. “I think Captain Ryan might take it amiss.”
Chapter 67: Outdoors People
Jenny just loves going out in the field, honest.
“This is fun,” Jenny said sarcastically, standing in the rain.
Lacey gave her a bland smile which somehow managed to remind her that Jenny, having remembered to bring an umbrella, was reasonably warm and dry, unlike the soldiers – let alone Abby, Stephen and their borrowed vet, who were all slathered in mud and didn’t seem to care. Helena finished examining the strangely toothy, capybara-like mammal, and called to Stephen, who grabbed the antidote to the tranquiliser they’d used on it; Abby grinned and shouted something cheeky that had them all laughing.
“Outdoors people,” Lacey said knowingly.
Jenny rolled her eyes.
Chapter 68: Getaway Driver
Danny's happy to be creative with the truth in a good cause.
Gently closing the drawing-room door, Jenny frowned severely at Danny. “ If there’s an emergency in the Highlands, I’ll eat my lipstick. Which jail is Connor in?”
“Oh, it’s not Connor,” Danny said.
“So what’s the problem?”
“The problem,” Danny said, offering Jenny his arm and leading her out to a surprisingly smart car, “is a couple of days in a very nice hotel with no mobile signal. Just you and me.”
Danny touched her cheek lightly. “Don’t tell me you wanted to spend another minute with that ghoul.”
“Good point,” Jenny conceded, and got into the car.
Chapter 69: Mission Of Mercy
Liz isn't here to be nice to Ryan.
“What’s all this about?” Ryan said, staring down the girl in his kitchen. “Pity? Making your dad feel better?”
Jon shifted behind him, and the laser focus of the girl’s answering stare switched briefly. Jon stopped.
“Neither,” Liz Lester said. “That’s Dad’s problem. I just disapprove of the junk you’re eating.” She sniffed, and added several scurrilous comments on the microwave meals and takeaways Ryan had been feeding himself with.
“Thanks, but no thanks. I’m fine.”
Liz rolled her eyes and shoved a plate of spaghetti bolognese at him. “Shut up and eat.”
Ryan was surprised to find himself obeying.
Chapter 70: Special Delivery
Ryan can't seem to make Lyle give up on him, and where Lyle goes, Liz seems to follow.
Ryan thought he’d finally got rid of Lyle. It had hurt Ryan to do it, but there was no other way to make Lyle understand that Ryan was a mess he couldn’t fix.
He was therefore stunned when he woke to find more plastic boxes of reheatable meals on the kitchen table, and the empty Tupperware from before missing.
I’m not giving up on you, the note on the boxes read.
Ryan rang Lester. “Make them stop,” he snapped. “I’m not interested in pity.”
“Some things are out of my control.” Lester paused. “You of all people should know that.”
Chapter 71: Taking The Job
Ryan moves forward at last.
Ryan didn’t wait too long to call Lester. If he did, he knew he wouldn’t go through with it.
“Speaking. Captain Ryan?”
“Is that job offer still open?”
“Naturally,” Lester said.
Ryan took a deep breath. “I’d like to take it up.”
“Excellent. We can use your expertise.”
“Thank you, sir. When can I start?”
“Monday, eight o’clock.” A slight pause. “It’s good to have you back on board, Ryan.”
There was a yell of ‘fucking finally!’ in the background.
Ryan rolled his eyes. “Tell Jon to piss off for me, sir.”
“Certainly not,” Lester said. “Do it yourself.”
Chapter 72: Night Night
Ryan in hospital, with his boyfriend by him and his team nearby.
Ryan lay half-asleep, slowly succumbing to painkillers and exhaustion, Stephen’s hand wrapped around his a warm and welcome presence.
“How is he?”
An appropriately hushed voice, clear, level; Ryan didn’t have to think to know it was Abby’s.
“All right,” Stephen answered. “Sleeping.”
There was a loud crash, and three different voices hissed “Connor!”
“Sorry, sorry, sorry, I didn’t see the tray...”
Ryan rolled his eyes. It was amazing someone hadn’t drowned the boy long ago.
“We’ll leave you two in peace,” Cutter said.
“Thanks,” Stephen said. Ryan could hear the smile in his voice.
Ryan fell asleep feeling safe.
Chapter 73: The Morning After The Night Before
If late nights ended like this all the time, Sarah would spend much more time at work.
When she woke, Sarah didn’t recognise the room she was in. Disconcerted, she climbed out of bed, went exploring, and promptly found Becker, unfolding himself from the sofa.
Sarah stared at him. He was attractive in the ordinary way of things, but now, hair tousled, eyes heavy-lidded with sleep...
“You fell asleep,” Becker said, voice rough. “At your desk. I didn’t want to leave you there. Coffee?”
Becker nodded, and wandered into the kitchen.
Sarah watched him, slightly mesmerised by the shirtlessness, and decided to buy him a drink in the near future.
As a thank-you, of course.
Chapter 74: A Sense Of Adventure
Sarah's looking for adventure.
Sarah had never been particularly sensible. From the moment she was born she flung herself at life, clever, resourceful, heedless, and firmly convinced that there was another adventure just round the corner. It was no coincidence that her happiest memories of university were the least predictable ones: fieldwork in Egypt. Some students went down with homesickness and food-poisoning; Sarah bounced into the field bright and early, unbelievably excited to be doing her work. She was always looking for a real adventure.
Presenting her pass to ARC security on her first official day at work, Sarah thought she’d finally found it.
Chapter 75: Coping Mechanisms
Stephen has good days, bad days and awful anniversaries.
Stephen doesn’t drink, so Sarah’s surprised when she comes home and sees Stephen on the floor in the study, holding a glass of whiskey. Then she remembers, and kicks herself for having somehow forgotten that this is the anniversary of Cutter throwing Stephen out.
“Hey,” she says.
Stephen raises his head and smiles tightly.
She wanders off, going against every instinct she has. She knows he’ll put down the glass and come downstairs when the takeaway comes, and he’ll be okay then. But he needs to be alone now.
Sarah waits it out, and her heart hurts.
Chapter 76: Get What You Need
Jess takes control.
Once, Jess’s teachers had told her parents that she needed physical activity to keep her healthy, and her parents had reluctantly agreed, making up a shortlist of ice-skating, ballet, or gym. She’d chosen gym, loving the precision of it - until she’d broken her leg aged fifteen when she slammed off the beam onto the floor, and they wouldn’t let her go back.
Jess applied to Oxford.
Five years later, she kicked off her shoes and cartwheeled right across the ARC’s lawn, because she felt like it. And she kept her parents at arm’s length, somewhere behind her trust fund.
Chapter 77: No More Safe Havens
Jess likes high places.
She always liked high places. As a child she climbed everything, a flash of red hair and a watermelon grin just out of reach of any one of the foreign nannies who were meant to improve her language skills and taught her nothing but swearwords.
Now she sits on the ARC’s rooftop . There are cameras up here, recording her every move, but the footage goes straight to her and in a few hours it won’t exist any more.
Jess sighs, staring up at the sky.
She knows there’s nowhere high enough to make her forget the colleagues she’s lost.
Chapter 78: Phone A Friend.
Jess loses out.
Jess saw the way Danny looked at Becker when he returned from the past. She saw the way Becker looked back. She saw thirty seconds of footage from the locker room, before she cut the feed.
Fuck you, Becker, she thought, and shook with anger behind porcelain cheerfulness.
Jess chose an isolated spot for her break. She took out a personal phone she rarely touched, and rang her closest uni friend.
“Jess? Is that you?”
“...Are you okay?”
“No,” Jess wailed.
“Oh, fuck. What’s wrong?”
“It’s this guy,” Jess sobbed, and – for once in her life – acted her age.
Chapter 79: Keeping Up Appearance
Jenny knows the tools of her trade.
“Why do you bother?” Abby asked, incredulously watching Jenny fix her hair.
Jenny double-checked her hair and started fishing for her make-up bag. Her skirt was a mess, but her coat would cover it, and she’d taken off her ruined tights. “Bother with what?”
“All the... I mean, the make–up, and the smart clothes. Jenny, we chase dinosaurs. They don’t care how you look.”
“No,” Jenny said, re-applying lipstick, “but the dinosaurs aren’t my problem - persuading people they don’t exist is. The smarter I look, the easier that is.”
Abby looked deeply unconvinced.
“Believe me, Abby. It’s necessary.”
Chapter 80: Hobson's Choice
They don't give Helen many options.
They offered her a choice. Agree not to run and stay here, in the twenty-first century, reunited with Nick and Stephen – at least until their little secret came out - working for the anomaly project, trapped in one timeline, but with access to the vast spread of time and space behind the anomalies. Or she could go to prison.
“What for?” Helen demanded, distinctly underwhelmed by the options on offer.
Lester shrugged and gave her a bored look. “Does it really matter? Make your choice, Mrs Cutter.”
“Both options are an insult, Lester, and you know it.”
“It’s your funeral.”
Chapter 81: Seen But Heard
Emily has had to learn to be seen but not heard.
As a wife, Emily tried to keep her own counsel. She had not been raised to speak her mind, but she had lacked guidance. Her mother had died very young, and her father had been an eccentric gentleman who hired a governess whose radical views on women’s rights were rendered acceptable by her tolerance for geological specimens. Emily grew up with a great appreciation for facts and the letter of the law.
Now, she listened to inaccuracies slip into the conversations around her dinner-table, and caught her husband’s eye.
The bruises on her wrists ached, and Emily said nothing.
Chapter 82: Solidarity
There aren't that many women at the ARC, but they stick together.
“Bad day,” Lacey said, staring around the crowded armoury.
Abby checked her tranquiliser gun in and sighed. “God, I know.” She couldn’t forget the sight of the eohippus’ broken, twisted legs, and she still had Helena’s row with Jenny ringing in her ears. The vet had lost, and they’d had to put down the eohippus anyway.
“Meeting in the Black Swan in ten,” Lacey observed.
Abby offered Lacey a tired smile. “I’ll be there.”
“So will Ramsey. Even if I have to drag her.”
At the end of the day, all that mattered was that they stuck together.
Chapter 83: Exit Stage Left
Burton walks through the door and Lorraine walks out of it.
Lorraine didn’t trust Philip Burton. He believed his own hype, and she thought that was dangerous. He had no understanding of the ARC; he just wanted to fit it in with his own work. All he cared about was the science, which should have reassured Lorraine, but his slightly disdainful manner when he toured the ARC had made her resolve to get out, no matter what Lester thought.
Lester would go along with him because he had no choice; Becker, because his self-flagellating mood exactly suited Philip’s ideas.
In silence, Lorraine wished for Jenny, and the strength to fight back.
Chapter 84: Human Resources
Lorraine's grown accustomed to the sheer amount of intra-office fraternisation.
Lorraine had come to the ARC with a firm understanding that relationships in the office were inappropriate, to be avoided at all costs. This had taken a severe knock within weeks of her arrival, as she occupied Corporal Barnes’s regrettable parents with unnecessary and largely made-up paperwork while Lieutenant Owen smuggled Barnes’s partner into his ward, and by now she was largely used to it. Yes, it sometimes complicated matters, but nothing she couldn’t handle.
In theory, anyway.
She knocked firmly on the door to the kitchen, ignoring the noises from inside. “Excuse me. Would you mind making a cup of tea while you’re in there?”
Chapter 85: Workaholic
Lorraine's a little fixated.
“-You’re never here, you’re always tired –“
“That’s not my fault!” Lorraine exclaimed.
“-you could work less!” her boyfriend shouted, stamping up and down her new flat.“You never even act like you care about me! You wouldn’t even come and watch me play football!”
“Daniel, I was at work! I couldn’t help it! There are more important things than football!”
“More important things? For a secretary? Oh yeah,” Daniel jeered.
“I think you should leave,” Lorraine said.
He grumbled, but went.
Lorraine stared at her paint samples, and wondered if anyone would mind if she went back in to work.
Chapter 86: Punching Above Her Weight
Christine's changed the game. (Or maybe the game's changed her.
Lightweight – the word had seemed to follow her for those first few meticulously by-the-book years of her career, when she hadn’t learnt that a genuine smile at work was blood in the water. And the civil service was infested with sharks.
Christine had had to readjust her notions. From wanting to use the civil service, alter it from the inside in order to remake the country along her lines, she went to simply wanting to be the biggest shark in the water.
These days, no-one called her a lightweight. These days, no-one spoke unguarded words to her at all.
Chapter 87: Lie To Me
Claudia keeps it together.
“You’re taking this well,” Ryan commented, and Claudia would honestly very much like to know how he managed to get to her doorway without her noticing. She was normally more observant than that, and also, sitting behind her desk as she was now meant that she was facing the actual door.
She looked up at him with an incredulous half-smile. “Was that sarcasm?”
“No,” Ryan said evenly. “You could be crying and calling in sick. Most people would be.”
“Over the disappearance of one professor I barely knew?” Claudia forced a bitter laugh. “It’s hardly the end of the world.”
Chapter 88: Next Stop, Baby Photos
Uni AU. Lorraine meets Sarah's family.
Sarah did want Lorraine to meet her family, but tea with Great-Aunt Viola was obviously an awful place to start.
“...Next thing you know,” Auntie Viola concluded, “Sarah will be terrorising her own children and grandchildren! You’ll have to keep her in line, dear, she’s a terrible one for a ghost-story.”
“Oh, I know,” Lorraine lied. “She tells them at CMU.”
“Really?” Auntie Viola beamed.
“My third-years have been unbelievably polite since the story about the ghoul in the Fawcett Building.”
“Attagirl, Sally!” Auntie Viola grinned.
Sarah blanched. “Nobody calls me that any more!”
“I think it’s sweet,” Lorraine said, smiling evilly.
Chapter 89: Prehistoric Spores Made Them Do It
Look, sex pollen is all well and good, but you have to tidy up afterwards.
“I suppose, Captain, I don’t really want to know how the broken chair came to pass. Or the dented lockers. Or Dr. Hart’s mild concussion, which Lieutenant Owen thinks was caused by his head falling back against some hard surface, such as shower tiles.”
“Not really, sir.”
“Really, Ryan. I know the last call-out was... problematic... but property damage on this scale is unacceptable.”
“And reports that people were, ah, speculating about ‘that uptight bastard Lester’?...”
“They’d better be. Well, don’t let it happen again, Captain. We have bunkrooms for this sort of thing, after all.”
Chapter 90: Shot Me Down
Stephen Hart didn't get to the scorpion in time to save everyone.
Ellie was a photography student. She was taking pictures at that beach with her boyfriend, when the scorpion-thing struck and took him, snatching him away from her under the sand in the second when her heart stopped.
Once she took out the other pictures from that day and examined them: there was the bridge, and the man carrying a harpoon gun, trapping the scorpion-thing above ground. Then she burned the photographs, changed her degree to Media Studies, and went to film war zones with Reuters.
She’s never seen anything to match the horror of that beach. She wishes she would.
Chapter 91: Skill
Jenny won't be moved.
Don’t lose your temper, Jenny reminded herself, smiling at the bureaucrat who apparently thought he could patronise her, stare at her breasts, make rude demands for information and live to see tomorrow.
“I am sorry you feel that I am not providing you with adequate responses to your queries,” she said briskly, still smiling, “but this is a case of national security and I really must see that you have the appropriate security clearance to handle this information.”
“I don’t know how you do it,” Sarah said later, “keep your cool in front of jerks like that.”
“It’s a skill.”
Chapter 92: Staring You In The Face
Jenny does sometimes wish their consulting vet was less of a smartarse.
The vet eyed the distressed creature, then turned to Jenny. “So what do we do with this?”
“I was hoping you’d have some ideas,” Jenny retorted.
Helena Ramsey tugged thoughtfully on her ponytail. “You say the anomaly’s still open? But it’s refusing to move?”
“Well, yes,” Jenny said, feeling that as a summary of events, this left much to be desired.
Helena shook her head. “Ankle or not, you shouldn’t have left Abby behind; she’s got more sense than the rest of you put together. It’s a bloody great big bird. Did you ever think it might be laying eggs?”
Chapter 93: That Sinking Feeling
Who Becker might have been, given the time, the inclination and the motorbike; and how he ends up far too close to anomalies anyway.
It’s a sweet, sultry summer the year he turns eighteen, the year he estranges himself from his father and builds himself a new life. He changes his name, moves himself into halls, and buys a motorbike. The copper who sells it to him is mad, but fun, and introduces him to a whole new world of scenes-of-the-crime, motives and fingerprints.
Nearly ten years later, he stares at the glitter in the air, and at his closest friend Danny, and the scruffy lad Danny intends to arrest for reasons unknown.
“I’m not paid enough for this,” Detective Sergeant Becker almost wails.
Chapter 94: The Importance Of Labels
What you call yourself matters. (I can't find where it says James is Hilary's middle name, and I've been using Alexander for him for a while.)
“Mother?” Becker said quietly, pausing a little way away from the restaurant table. He knew Rosemary Becker hated loud noises.
She stood up, smiling. “Hilary!”
They looked alike, although she was nervous, fragile, and he smiled back. He loathed the name Hilary, but she hadn’t called him that- that had been his father, but the man had a lot to answer for, and Becker hated him more for the way he bullied Rosemary than he did for giving his son a stupid family name.
He kissed her cheek. “Actually, most people call me Alex now.”
Rosemary’s smile said she understood.
Chapter 95: The Kids Are All Right
The class of 2010 is as harsh as any other.
The whispers follow Liz and Juliet around the school, words meant to sting. They are less than they were before, when they first got started, but a few people are still...
Difficult. That’s Juliet’s word, said sweetly to deflect adults.
Backwards. That’s Simon’s word, drawled around an illicit cigarette to make people realise that Liz has always had friends, and Juliet has more.
Trouble. That’s Liz’s word that means nothing at all. Liz only needs them to remember that she’s strong, that she loves fiercely, and that she can be cruel.
Between the three of them, the whispers are quietened.
Chapter 96: The Kindness of (Nearly) Strangers
Ryan has an unexpected moment of camaraderie with his boyfriend's daughter.
He doesn’t sleep much; four hours a night, six max, though things have improved since meeting James. Sleeping is easier when he’s with him, and both James and his daughter make excellent coffee.
One night, he just can’t sleep. He gets up, goes into the kitchen and turns on the lights. Tea’ll settle him.
He turns abruptly.
Liz Lester is sitting on the floor by the window, holding a mug. “Try the chamomile.”
“You don’t sleep. Try the chamomile. It works, weirdly.”
“Thanks,” he says, surprised and slightly dubious.
“You’re welcome, Ryan.”
The kettle boils. “Call me Tom.”
Chapter 97: Too Many Reminders
Kathy's children are too much like James Lester for her to be completely comfortable, sometimes.
It’s in her youngest son’s blue eyes and gift for music, in the lessons he takes and the specialist music school he attends.
It’s in her fragile older boy’s clever hands and art, the quick sketches and full-colour pieces, saturated with life.
It’s in her awkward daughter’s sharp tone, her sarcasm, even her... relationship with that girl, because she can see a familiar unstinting love in her daughter’s eyes.
Their father is there in all of them, always. Sometimes that upsets Kathy, because it means that - after all this time and pain and loss – James Lester is still with her.
Chapter 98: Vice Versa
Alone and helpless on the wrong side of an anomaly.
Practised hands held the dinofelis cub down in order to finish off a basic health check, then tucked it into a towel-lined box. Abby caught the vet’s eye; the woman shrugged. “Healthy, but not weaned. I’d want to get it under an infra-red lamp if I could take it back to the surgery...”
“You can’t,” Abby sighed. “Lester, remember?”
Helena Ramsey sniffed. “Fine. What are you going to do with it, Abby? It’ll grow, you know.”
Abby winced, remembering Valerie Irwin. “I don’t know.” She stroked the cub, avoiding its feeble attempts to scratch her. “Lester’ll want it put down.”
Chapter 99: Vows Of Chastity Are Kind Of Inhibiting
Lorraine has to sit through the Sound of Music with her niece, but that doesn't mean Blade will join her.
“You ditched me, traitor,” Lorraine said, stepping through the French windows into her sister’s garden. “When did you bottle out?”
Blade turned from where he was sitting on the grass and grinned at her. “Some weird song about kittens.”
“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens?”
“That one.” Blade pulled a face. “It’s really Adele’s favourite film?”
“Believe it or not.”
“...Huh.” Blade reached up to her. “C’mere.”
Lorraine laughed, and sat down on his lap. A comfortable silence fell.
“Raindrops on roses?”
Thoughtfully, Blade kissed her neck, and she shivered, pressing against him. “That nun had no imagination.”
Chapter 100: Wish Upon A Star
Nick's drunk. It's starry. Stephen's long-suffering.
“Lookit.” Nick stopped dead and pointed up at the night sky, swaying slightly as he tilted back his head.
Stephen craned his neck upwards. “Look at what?”
“Stars. They’re beautiful.”
“Mm-hm.” Well, it was an unusually clear night, Stephen supposed, no clouds to obscure the glittering tracery superimposed on endless darkness.
“Lots and lots of stars,” Nick slurred, almost falling over backwards. Stephen caught him.
“You are so drunk,” he informed Nick, and wondered when he should have stopped the older man drinking.
“Reckon Helen sees these stars?”
“I have no idea, Nick. I have no bloody idea.”
Chapter 101: The Trouble With Feathers
Jenny's allergic to them.
Jenny marched into the gatehouse, where the team had shifted the drugged archaeopteryx out of sight. “All right, what is this thing? Lord What’s-his-name mistook it for a mutant pigeon, but- oh, no!”
She glared at the prehistoric bird, and began to say something, but her words were swallowed by a sneezing fit and her eyes began to stream. The team stared at her, motionless, and then Nick passed her a tissue and helped her out of the gatehouse.
“Thank you!” Jenny managed. “I’m allergic to the bloody feathers, that’s all.”
“I’d never have guessed,” Nick said.
She hit him.
Chapter 102: Where Angels Fear To Tread
Stringer's a terrible flirt under all circumstances.
“Look out, the floor’s-“
“- rotten in there...” Abby peered through the doorway, looking down at a non-existent floor and a somewhat stunned captain. “Are you okay?”
“Yes,” Joel Stringer answered, picking splinters out of his hands.
Abby prodded the remaining boards with her tranquiliser rifle, which gave way. She retreated. “I can’t see how to get you out.”
He waved an airy hand. “Don’t worry. Lads’ll be along in a moment.” He paused. “This does prove one thing, you know. You’re an angel.”
“‘Where angels fear to tread’?” he prompted.
“...Oh. Does that make you a fool?”
Chapter 103: you've had a bad day (the camera don't lie)
Sarah's had a terrible day. Becker's bent on making it up to her.
“So,” Captain Becker said, braking at a red light. “What do you think was the worst bit?”
Sarah sighed. “I’m not sure. The diplodocus headbutting Danny? Ross standing on my sandwiches? No, definitely my car battery going flat halfway out of the bloody ARC.”
Becker patted her hand, and nearly got bitten. “There now. Kermit and Joel and I managed to move the car, didn’t we? And you know-“ he sneaked her a glance- “I could make it up to you... if you’d like.”
There was a silence. And then: “Captain Becker, that’s the best idea I’ve heard all day.”
Chapter 104: Picture-Postcard Beautiful
Pretty surroundings don't open an anomaly. Abby keeps a vigil.
The wood was picture-postcard beautiful.
Abby didn’t notice, stunning sunrise or not. She was too busy staring at the spot where an anomaly had been and nursing the broken wrist that meant she wasn’t on the other side of it.
She shivered convulsively in the morning chill; a soldier had given her a fleece, but because of the cast on her arm she couldn’t get it on. Suddenly, someone was behind her, helping her get her good arm into a sleeve and wrap the jacket around herself.
Joel Stringer laid a hand on her shoulder. “They will come back, Abby.”
Chapter 105: You're Yes Then You're No
Abby doesn't understand what goes on between her and Connor.
Abby doesn’t understand what’s going on with her and Connor. They’re up and down, back and forth, they’re just friends and so much more. She thinks it’s her fault: Connor knows what he wants. She’s the problem, really.
She just gets scared, okay? Scared that she’s wrong about him and he’ll turn bad, like nearly everyone else she gets close to. A girl needs to look after herself.
She’s OK for the moment. Connor’s always been there, and Abby knows how to value that. Still, if she has to watch Doctor Who once more, she will feed him to Rex.