|Lost in Time: Yesterday's Child
Author: thelonemongrel PM
Sequel to LiT: Origins. When the herd is summoned to a land beyond their own, they find the cost of being heroes threatens to tear them apart, even as they fight to save their future. T for language and violence. AU as of IA4's releaseRated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Drama - Chapters: 10 - Words: 96,682 - Reviews: 36 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 4 - Updated: 01-08-13 - Published: 02-18-12 - id: 7847552
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Before beginning, a helpful word; if you have chanced upon this story and have read nothing by me before, then my suggestion would be to acquaint yourself with this series before reading on! This is a sequel to Lost in Time: Origins, and follows on from it in a lot of respects. I am writing it in a way that you don't necessarily need to know the other story first, but it would greatly help!
To those of you who have just finished Origins and are ploughing into this story, welcome back! I have been really excited about writing this story for over a year now, so hopefully you will enjoy it too! This story is set a decade after the events of Origins, as i felt that an all grown up Peaches (well, 12ish...close enough :P), Mark and Ben would be interesting to explore!
As always, please read and review etc etc etc
Without further ado...
The rocket seemingly appeared rather than fired. The mass of explosive metal roared towards them, belching out an angry plume of smoke and fire in its wake. He saw it, knowing full well he had only seconds to react. He turned to the soldiers around him, all hunkered down behind rubble.
"TAKE COVER!" He screamed.
Barely had they moved when the missile flew past them, skirting over their heads so closely they could almost have reached out and touched it. It slammed into a building a hundred yards behind them, shattering the structure into a plethora of flying concrete, steel, glass and fire. In the distance, he could hear screaming. His heart sank as two medics ran past him, sprinting hard for the burning building. His dismay turned to horror as he saw the reason for their running; several men now flailed on the ground, their bodies covered in flames.
But not covered enough to hide the uniforms that they wore, burning off even as he looked on.
He let out a cry of rage; they were his men, and he was their captain. He raised his hand, pointed squarely at the building from whence the rocket came, and screamed,
The small arms fire that emanated from within was no match for them as RPG's, tank shells, grenades and rifle fire slammed into the building.
Within a minute, he called for his troops to cease fire. Nothing within the devastated building moved. Only the screams of the badly burnt men behind him filled the air.
"Fan out!" He yelled. "Ensure all hostiles have been neutralised!"
"Yessir!" The men chorused. Promptly, they broke their cover, snaking their way towards the structure.
He waited impatiently on the perimeter, keeping an eye for any further rebels, desirous to hear the report.
Finally, his radio crackled,
He snatched up his radio, pressing it tightly to his mouth,
"Are they neutralised?"
"They are sir, but..." The voice replied hesitantly. The guarded tone worried him deeply,
Oh God no, he thought.
"What is it, corporal?" He asked, unsure if he wanted to know.
"...five rebels have been accounted for...but there are others in this building..."
His blood went cold.
"Tell me." He said flatly.
"Seven civilians are also here; tied and bound...the bastards must have taken them hostage...but..."
His heart stopped at the full, horrific realisation of what was implied.
"Can we save them?" He asked in desperation.
"Sir...they're dead. Judging by their wounds, it weren't us, sir. Close range, and fresh. Bastards must've shot 'em when they saw us approach."
He tottered on his feet, all strength leaving him as his mind swiftly accused him;
You didn't even know they were there...you didn't save them...you failed them.
"You ok, Frank?"
Frank barely heard Mark's voice above the din of his thoughts. Voices of hundreds of people he had failed to keep alive - civilian and military, real and imagined - welled within him. He glanced up into the mirror he stood in front of, seeing the tears now streaking his face, his dress-uniform jacket only partly donned. He let out a bitter sigh as he slid his right arm into the jacket sleeve.
"I'm all right," He murmured, wiping away the tears brusquely. "It's just...this jacket, this whole uniform...reminds me of a past I tried to leave behind."
The presence of Mark's paw on his arm forced his attention away from the mirror, his gaze meeting with the sabre's. The sight of Mark in full dress-uniform still surprised him - more for the fact that it suited him than anything else. The sheer power of his eyes peering out from under his peaked cap caught him slightly off guard.
"The Troubles never happened," Mark said softly. "That entire timeline never happened," He smirked slightly. "Technically, none of our timelines happened."
Frank smiled ruefully,
"Maybe not," He admitted. "But I lived through it all the same..."
"But that man you remember isn't you," Mark countered forcefully. "The man who wore this uniform didn't stand up to Soto, didn't help us save history...that man isn't a part of our herd...but you are."
Frank fought back the tears as he donned his dress-uniform jacket, feigning a smile for Mark. He knew, logically, that he was right; his self-recrimination was paradoxical, guilt for actions that never technically happened. A failed expedition through time, and all the adventures therein, had resulted in a new timeline, one where the Troubles - and his actions whilst fighting in it - had never come to pass.
But the voices were there, taunting him, reminding him of his failures. Of the blood on his hands. He donned his peaked cap, turned, and stared at his own reflection in the mirror. The three diamond emblems signifying his rank as captain gleamed in the light, his buttons and shoes highly polished, his peaked cap giving a sense of grandeur and theatricality to it all. Even his sword hilt gleamed in the light. He brushed himself down, turning to Mark,
"How do I look?" He asked.
Mark nodded, giving him a smirk,
"Good," He replied. "It makes you look impressive, authoritative, even dignified...to put it plainly, all the things you seem to lack usually."
He laughed, giving the sabre a playful punch on the shoulder. His smile quickly faded as his eyes met themselves once more in his reflection.
"I was a fool back then," He murmured to himself, looking squarely at the reflection of his eyes. "Once upon a time, I would have been thrilled to wear...this..."
"And you don't now?" Mark quizzed.
"No," He replied. "Because now I know just how much blood that I had to spill to wear...this..."
Mark cleared his throat, grabbing his attention.
"I've been meaning to ask; why do we have to wear this?" The sabre gestured to both himself and Frank's uniforms. "I mean, sure, I can understand you wearing this stuff, in a way...but why me? Why do all of the herd have to wear this stuff for this thing?"
Frank smiled slightly,
"Sam seems keen to make it look like a military tribunal," He stated. "Although I am reliably informed that no one's entirely sure what it is, or what it will become. I guess I can understand why they don't want us to stand out since, officially, we don't exist. The Guardians are a myth, after all."
A gentle knocking on his door snapped them out of their conversation. He turned to find chauffeur idling in the doorway, smiling nervously beneath his cap.
"Captain Howard?" He asked. "Lieutenant Ericsson?"
He turned back to Mark, both of them sharing a bemused glance, knowing full well what the other was thinking;
"Yes?" Frank said aloud.
"I have been sent on the behest of the United Nations Temporal Commission. They require your presence."
Frank looked down at his watch, smiling slightly.
"I take it the tribunal is starting earlier?" He said, knowing full well the chauffeur wouldn't have any clue what he was talking about.
Sure enough, he shrugged,
"I apologise, captain, but I do not know," He replied courteously. "But I do know that they want both of you there immediately."
Of course they do.
He placed his left hand on the hilt of his sword, reassured by its presence. He shot Mark a wearied smile as he stretched out his other hand, giving the man a deferential nod,
"Then please, lead the way."
The rain pelted the roof of the car, drowning out any other sound. Frank shifted back in his seat, gazing absently through the rain mottled window at the soaring modern towers and arcane buildings that made up London. In the distance, its peak occluded by clouds, stood the great glass structure that housed the UNTC. Whilst Sam had told him it's 'real' name, he knew he would never consider it to be anything else but the Shard.
The car jerked slightly, snapping his attention to his immediate surroundings.
He sat bolt upright, staring wide-eyed at the bridge they passed over.
"Waterloo Bridge," He murmured. He remembered the bridge, as if from some half-forgotten dream; of Hudson-that-wasn't-Hudson, and of destruction that never happened.
He smirked, suddenly reminded of Mark's presence. He slumped back into his seat, casting a sideways glance at the sabre,
"This is Waterloo Bridge," He repeated.
Mark nodded, seemingly satisfied with the answer. Frank suppressed the desire to let out a relieved sigh; he had never told them what happened to him.
And I never will, He finished.
"So," Mark said slowly. "Any ideas why I'm suddenly Lieutenant Ericsson?"
He smiled at the sabre,
"I haven't the foggiest," He replied. "Truth be told, I'm surprised I'm not referred to by something else," He turned back to the rain-sodden vista beyond the window. "Seems there's been a lot of security measures happening around th-"
He cut himself short, startled out of his trail of thought by an unexpected - and vigorous - vibration in his pocket. What confused him more, however, was why Livin' on a Prayer emanated from there as well. He stared at his pocket in confusion, tacitly reaching his hand into it.
Of course, he thought, suddenly feeling foolish. He gingerly pulled out a mobile phone - given to him by Sam a few days before, he recalled - and set about trying to find the button that would answer the call.
Having found it, he planted it to his ear,
"Afternoon, Frank!" Hudson's voice boomed. "Has your chariot arrived?"
He grinned, mouthing 'James' silently at Mark,
"Yes, our chariot has indeed arrived!" He replied. "But we're a little confused as to why Mark has a surname, and why it happens to be Ericsson."
Or why your ringtone is hair metal, he added mentally.
The wolf's voice laughed sincerely,
"Trust me, considering one of the other choices was 'Herdley', this is by far the least embarrassing choice of surname our supposedly sophisticated security division could think up."
Frank paused, allowing the silence to linger for a moment,
"How is everything holding up?" He asked, all humour gone from his voice.
"...as well as could be, given the circumstances," Hudson's voice suddenly sounded drained to Frank's ears. "We've gotten three messages from Manny this morning; apparently the council has demanded yours and Mark's presence immediately to resolve a new dispute."
Frank sat bolt upright.
"A new one? But we just solved one just yesterd-" He stopped himself, taking a deep breath as he did so. "Tell them we'll be back by the afternoon, their time."
"I already have." Hudson replied.
Frank paused, letting his eyes drift across the vista.
"How's Diego?" He asked tentatively.
Silence greeted him for a long while.
"He's critical," Hudson said, all the humour drained from his voice. "But stable. Doctors are still considering amputation, though. His leg is ruined."
He snapped his eyes shut, willing the tears to remain at bay.
"Damnit." He murmured.
"I'm sorry I can't give you any better news," Hudson replied sombrely. "I hate to change the subject, but are you all set for the tribunal?"
"No, not really." Frank replied earnestly.
"I don't blame you," Hudson's voice muttered. "This is all just a god-awful mess; the sooner it's all done with, the better...Frank, sorry, but I have to run. I'll see both of you at the tribunal."
He cut himself off, staring wearily at his phone. He glanced over at Mark and sighed once more.
The Shard loomed over them like a great sheet of wet ice as Frank slipped the phone back into his pocket. He looked at the structure, noting the ominous quality lent it by the dark, dreary day, smiling slightly at the aptness of it; a dark day to relive one of their darkest times.
"Here we go again." He sighed.
Sam heard the car before she saw it, its noise echoing off of the walls to the underground car park like a hungry, angry beast.
In spite of the car's noise, she could still hear the hustle and bustle of the media echoing down the same passage. She pictured them, hundreds of journalists armed with cameras, phones and notepads, jostling for the best spot to grab a slither of news in time to grab the headlines of tomorrow's papers. She let out an annoyed huff, knowing full well her gambit to hide who was attending the tribunal was already failing; the media's very presence confirmed it.
Someone must have let something slip, she thought. Something must have-
As the car came into sight, she forced her thoughts into silence. Even so, watching the car come to a halt, she privately wondered how long it would be before she saw the herd's identities plastered across newspaper headlines around the world. A chill of fear went down her spine; she knew such publicity would spell disaster for all involved. Distracted though she was, outwardly she smiled as the car doors flung open.
"Jesus Christ Sam!" Frank exclaimed, jumping to his feet. "Why are the paparazzi here?"
"Newspapers are desperate for any story these days, even a dull one about a tribunal," She lied. "Welcome to Gallifrey House."
"You mean the Shard, right?" Frank replied with a smirk.
"Sorry dear, wrong timeline," She retorted playfully. She paused as Mark appeared from behind the car.
"...Mark?" She said, surprised. She knew he had grown up, but she still remembered him as the little cub she had met decades - from her perspective - before. He looked strong, composed, even authoritative in his uniform.
And a lot like Diego, she noted. Her smile faded slightly.
Mark shot her a sheepish grin,
"Hey Sam," He said. "Long time no see!"
"You can say that again," She remarked, trying to avoid any mention of how much he had grown. "Uniforms suit you, Mark."
A hand on her shoulder reminded her of her aide's presence.
"Madame Secretary General," the aide whispered. "We're on a tight schedule."
"Right," She murmured, nodding slightly. "In that case, gentlemen, follow me."
It had felt like hours since Frank and Mark had been offered to sit down and wait for a few moments until they were needed. Comfortable though the seats were, they had been placed in a spacious, unadorned hallway - with nothing to occupy them - left to their own devices. Frank rued the lack of a clock, or even a picture, to help pass the time.
As the minutes passed by, both man and sabre had gradually begun to shuffle uncomfortably, neither desiring to remain waiting for much longer. Slowly, but surely, both of them opted at glancing at their watches, letting out sighs, even tapping their fingers as loudly as they could.
"So," Mark said, boredom infecting his voice. "This is what Sam calls a 'tight schedule?'"
"Cut her some slack," He replied. "It's not as if her job has anything to do with managing time."
Both of them looked at each other, utterly straight-faced. Like a catalyst, merely meeting the other's gaze sent them bursting into raucous laughter. Frank knew the joke wasn't funny, but he didn't care; after over an hour of sitting with nothing, anything seemed funny.
"Seriously, Frank," Mark said, wiping away a tear from laughing so hard. "Why are we waiting so long?"
"Haven't the foggiest," He replied. "Guess they're just pressed for time with other things."
"And the puns just keep on flying, don't they?"
Spinning round in their seats, both laid relieved eyes on James. Frank smirked to himself, trying to recall the time when wolves in uniform no longer seemed odd to him.
"Yes, yes," James replied witheringly, yet his smile betrayed his amusement as he switched into a high pitched, deeply sarcastic tone. "'Lo! A talking wolf in a uniform! Truly the world has gone mad!'. Honestly, Frank, does your gaze have to be so...revealing? Or your thought patterns so outdated?"
"Try sitting with nothing to do for an hour," Frank retorted playfully. "Then tell me you wouldn't think of outlandish things."
"True enough," The wolf grinned. "Now come on, you have both been summoned."
"Summoned?" Mark quizzed.
James nodded, seemingly sizing up the sabre from beneath his peaked cap.
"You haven't seen many twenty first century proceedings, have you?" He said.
"Nope," Mark replied. "Only what the Bredelands have taught me."
"Well, to be honest, that's close enough," The wolf remarked. "And this isn't going to be a great lesson in how things run here; this is very quickly turning into a jurisdictional nightmare. Now come on, we're late as it is."
"Yeah, about that; why are we late?" Mark said.
"Unforeseen situations," James called back, his tone oddly, forcibly flat. "Things that, to quote you, Frank, can wait."
Looking up, it took him several moments to spot James, already nearly a dozen paces away from them. Frank and Mark shared a bemused glance, wondering how the wolf could have made his way down the passageway so quickly. James glanced back as he held open a door they didn't even realise had been there all that time, smiling smugly.
"Now, Captain, Lieutenant, you're late."
Making his way down the corridor, Frank suddenly felt the gravity of the situation weigh down on him. He didn't want to relive the last six months of their lives, much less in front of a tribunal.
He didn't want to remember...
"Oh, and two things," James said, cutting through Frank's thoughts. "Sam has asked you to try not to mention you are the Guardians, as less than a handful actually know that you actually exist, letalone who you are."
"Ok," Mark stated. "And the second thing?"
"I believe her words were, 'And tell them again, for the love of God, not to mention they're the Guardians.'"
"Sensing a pattern here," Frank replied, smirking. "Let her know that we'll keep it in mind."
Passing through the door, he just caught a glimpse of the wolf rolling his eyes,
"She was afraid you were going to say that." He muttered.
The courtroom, to Frank's surprise, was packed to the rafters. A few glances told him that no journalists or public filled the viewing galleries as row upon row of military regalia revealed themselves. Yet amongst the countless unfamiliar faces Frank saw, it was the ones he recognised, both the ones he expected - Sam stood sombrely dressed ahead of him - and the ones he didn't that caught him off guard; above him, staring down amongst the cold steel railings and warm wood panels of the balcony, he could see Buck, Crash, Eddie and Claire. He sensed that Mark - just as unmoving as he was - had seen them too. None of their herd, staring down at them, looked happy to be there; but it wasn't boredom that he saw on their faces.
"Frank," Mark whispered behind him. "Has Claire been...has she been crying?"
He didn't respond at once. Staring at his wife, the realisation slowly dawned on him.
And chilled him to the bone.
Diego, he thought. Something has happened to Diego.
"Not sure," He whispered back at Mark, hoping the sabre wouldn't hear the lie in his voice. "Can't tell from here."
Mark nodded slowly. Inwardly, Frank winced; he knew the sabre well enough to know when he didn't believe what he heard.
"Ok, good," Mark replied, evidently lying. "Just thought I'd check."
Gestured forward by James, both man and sabre sat down where commanded to. Frank looked on, noting the imposing dais ahead of them, the craning necks behind them, the overwhelming feeling they were actually on trial...
A voice, seemingly from nowhere, boomed across the hall.
"All rise for the Right Honourable Justice Helen Johnson!"
Virtually the entire room, Frank included, snapped to attention. From nowhere, a human woman appeared, clad in all the traditional trappings of the judicial system. Frank fought with his eyebrow, forcing it to remain perfectly still on his head; tribunals were - traditionally, he thought, resisting the urge to smirk - judged by senior military officials.
So, this only has the appearance of a tribunal, he concluded. Odd.
Suddenly interested, he studied the judge as she ascended to her seat. Her hair was mostly hidden underneath the traditional - and ridiculous looking, in his estimation - wig of all judges, yet what he could see was silvered. Her eyes, even though not focussed on him, already conveyed a stern and attentive stare he hadn't expected to see from what was, all told, an amiable face; he could see the laughter lines, even from his vantage point.
He wasn't sure whether any of that boded well for them or not.
He wasn't even sure what legal system he had the misfortune of being involved in.
"Thank you," The judge said, seating herself in one smooth motion as she spoke. "At ease. Please be seated."
Frank kept his eyes fixed on her as the room filled with the noise of hundreds of people sitting down. She rustled her papers, staring attentively at them.
"As per the request of the General Secretary of the United Nations Temporal Commission, I am obliged to state that these proceedings are classified," Judge Johnson stated. "If anything that is said in these proceedings are discussed beyond this room, even with persons currently present, it will be considered a crime and subject to a military tribunal," The judge smiled slightly. "In fact, this case is apparently so classified, I only know that this court is assembled to judge on a case of treason, and nothing else, which I would like to be on the record as a first for me."
Sense of humour, Frank noted with relief. Good.
"So let us begin," Judge Johnson glanced down at her papers. "This court calls forward Captain Howard and Lieutenant Ericsson."
Rising to his feet, Frank suddenly felt hundreds of pairs of eyes rest on him. He could practically feel Mark's nervousness beside him.
"Captain Howard," The judge said, eyes piercing into him. "Could you give this court your full name, please."
"Francis David Howard, your honour," Frank replied. "Although, with respect, I am no longer an officer."
Johnson arched an eyebrow. She leant forward with interest, clasping her hands before her. In the corner of his eye, he could see Sam drop her face into her hands in dismay.
"For a civilian, Captain, you seem curiously dressed," She said, smirking. "Also, I have your record in front of me, and it would argue against your statement. You have seen many tours of duty, received commendations and medals in many peacekeeping missions across several theatres, and are now one of the UNTC's many military advisors...and all of that in the last fifteen years, running up to just last month. Is this information somehow incorrect?"
"With respects, your honour, the records you have in front of you may well indeed be true for the Frank Howard of this timeline, but I am not him."
"Frank, what are you doing?" Sam hissed quietly at him, her voice drowned out by the gentle, throbbing noise of growing whispered behind them. He pretended not to hear, eyes still fixed firmly ahead.
He took a deep breath, trying to shut out the rising murmurs behind him. The judge didn't move, yet her gaze seemed to grow more intense.
"Would you care to explain, Captain?" She asked.
Frank took a deep breath, closing his eyes for a long moment.
"Are you a religious woman, your honour?"
The judge blinked at the question. He heard Sam curse softly under her breath.
"I'm not sure how that answers my question, Captain," She replied sharply.
"With respects, your honour, it will do," Frank replied. "Are you a religious woman?"
She paused for a long moment, mulling over her response. Frank felt like she was gauging his very being with her gaze.
"Yes," She replied. "I am."
"Then you might be familiar with one of the stories that almost every myth and religion on Earth has in common," He continued. "The Chronicles of the Guardians?"
"Captain Howard, what do the Chronicles have to do with my question?" The judge snapped.
"Everything, your honour," Frank replied. "I was the leader of an expedition of seven humans through time, whose actions, along with the actions many others, inadvertently led to a battle still remembered now, a battle now known as the battle of Halstead Pass, and thus the origins of the timeline we are now living in. If you wish to quickly reacquaint yourself on what happened, the secretary general has informed me often that our story is now wedged between Deuteronomy and Judges, or could be found in the stories of virtually every culture on Earth,"
He wasn't sure whether it was shock - or horror - he saw on the judge's face. The noise behind him began to grow feverishly. He shouted out the last sentence, knowing full well he wouldn't be heard before too long,
"The answer to your question, your honour, is that I am not the man whose file is before you, because I am one of twelve members of a herd that are the guards of a decent and sizeable chunk of the ancestors of every single person here present!"
Frank remained calmly standing in the chaos that ensued, surrounded by ecstatic shouting, angry heckles and excited chatter. He glanced around him, noting that all of the herd members were as still as he was, seemingly bemused by the response occurring around them. The judge, lost for words, simply sat back in her chair, eyes riveted onto him.
He could feel Sam's seething gaze prickling his skin.
"This court is adjourned!" The judge shouted out, bringing a modicum of peace to the room. "We shall reconvene at 6 o clock this evening. Good afternoon, dismissed!"
He watched as the judge disappeared from sight, wondering what exactly he had done wrong; after all, he reasoned, he had stated nothing but the truth.
You didn't even get to the point where you could say the oath, he noted. Odd.
Sam's hand gripped angrily around his arm, dragging his attention into the deeply angry eyes of his sister.
"You and I need to talk," She growled.
"Apparently so," He remarked. "What just happened?"
Her eyes narrowed to slits. With a gesture of her head, he suddenly felt the presence of two more sets of infinitely stronger hands grip his shoulders.
"Guards," She stated. "Please escort Captain Howard and Lieutenant Ericsson swiftly to my office, and make them comfortable."
Mark's gaze hardened,
"Sam, are we under arrest?" He asked.
She blinked, as if only just remembering Mark was beside her.
"Then tell your guards to back off, or they will be getting comfortable in a hospital," Mark's tone was so menacingly forceful, the guards almost instinctively backed off. "We will make our way to your office, and we will make ourselves comfortable. Understood?"
Sam stared at him in shock,
"This is my turf, Mark," Sam snapped. "You don't tell me what to do."
"We are allies, we're not under arrest and, right here and now, oh yes I do," Mark retorted. "And if you want us to remain allies, then you'll play nicely."
It was Frank's turn to blink. He hadn't expected anyone - least of all Mark - to throw such a serious threat in Sam's direction. Beneath the angry exterior, Frank could see a glint of panic in Sam's eyes. Slowly, but surely, he watched as she deflated somewhat, the gravity of the threat forcing to her back down.
"Fine," She muttered. "Make yourselves at home, I'll be there in a little while, and then we are going to have a very long chat about all of this."
Manny looked out on his valley, trying to remember what it looked like long ago. His eyes danced over the thriving village he called home, onto the villages he now saw in the distance as well.
He chuckled to himself; he couldn't remember when exactly his little valley became home to almost ten thousand people.
Slowly, he turned his eyes back to the homestead he sat in, remembering the months it took them to build it. All over the place, he saw reminders of his herd; Frank's discarded jacket, Buck's knife beside the fire, Diego's radio...
He let out a sigh, thoughts immediately drawn to one of his oldest friends.
"Manny!" Ellie called out as she appeared beyond the lip of the hill, Sid fast asleep on her back. "There you are! We've been looking for you! We need to go! They've asked for us!"
He rolled his eyes; he knew a few moments break was too good to be true.
"For the last time, wolfie said they were coming back this afternoon!" He said. "I mean, come on, can't they just make nice? Do they really need us to solve every-"
"They aren't looking for you," She replied. "Apparently, the Bredelands has agreed not to fall apart until we can go over this afternoon."
He turned to look at her, growing more and more confused.
"Well...if it's not the council...where are we going?"
Manny paced the floor of Sam's office, confused as to why he had been asked to come. Glancing around for the hundredth time, the mammoth was utterly, completely certain;
He and Ellie were alone in the office, and none the wiser why they were there.
"Remind me to sit on Sam a little," He muttered. "She's gotta learn that, when she summons us, she has to actually be here."
He looked over at Ellie, who looked as serene as he seemed agitated. She took a sip of tea, enjoying the view the office allowed of the city beyond.
"Relax, big guy," She replied. "I'm sure she has a good reason for bringing us here."
"I was relaxing!" He complained. "That was the first time I got to sit down with nothing to do in three weeks!"
"That might work on the others," She said calmly. "But that isn't gonna work on me; you and I both know Sid's been more active this week than you."
"Hey!" Sid exclaimed. Till then, he had been silent in his chair, nose deep in a book of philsophy.
All Manny heard, however, was a book closing for some reason.
"Woah, woah, WOAH!" Manny said, pointing his trunk jaggedly at Ellie. "I am not as lazy as Sid! Even if I tried, I couldn't be as lazy as Sid!"
"Um, hello?" Sid butted in. "The guy you're insulting...is right here."
Ellie threw up her trunk, as if pleading for calm. Her eyes pleaded for anything but,
"Well so-rry!" She said. "Guess I hit a nerve there, I'll back off."
"...do either of you realise I'm here?" Sid asked. He affected a mock thinking pose. "Now, should I use my invisibility to do good, or crime?"
Manny huffed, utterly oblivious to anyone but Ellie.
"I could crush you, you know." He said flatly.
"Only cos you're lazy and have been piling up those pounds," Ellie said airily. "Do you think Sam would let us have a holiday here someday?"
His pacing slowed to a halt.
"Huh?" Was all he could muster, even as he was thinking 'I AM NOT FAT!' at her.
"You know, a holiday?" She repeated, smiling. "That travelling thing you hate that we do sometimes anyway?"
"The last holiday we went on nearly killed us! A dozen times!"
"Yeah, but this time we won't have a murderous sabre on our-" She paused, making a face at him. "A dozen times? Pfft, as if!"
"But it did!" He retorted, trunk flailing wildly. "Holidays are just bad for us!"
"Name them," She replied. "Go on. Every one of the twelve times we nearly died."
He maintained eye contact, hoping she wouldn't see his long pause for what it truly was. She let out a huff, smiling to herself.
"You can't recall them, can you." She stated.
"Oh! Me! Me!" Sid exclaimed. "There was the incident in the valley, the gorge, the meltdown valley and Glacier Pass...huh, we seemed to keep nearly dying in a lot of valleys...or ravin-"
"Of course I do," Manny retorted, unaware Sid was talking. "Just thinking, that's all."
"You seemed to know them a minute ago." Ellie stated, grinning.
Damn, he thought.
"There were a lot of things exploding, few valleys collapsing, lots of fights..." He mumbled evasively. "And I am not lazier than Sid."
"...this isn't funny anymore," Sid grumbled. "I. Am. Right. Here."
"Yes you are dear," Ellie said, eyes distracted by the vista. "He's actually been doing something recently. Other than standing around as the council argues."
He stared at her, words failing to spill from his head into his mouth at the sheer audacity of his mate.
"Reading?" Manny spluttered. "Just because he's reading some dead guy's thoughts about stuff makes me lazier than him?"
"Plato is not just some guy!" Sid protested. No one listened.
Ellie, grin creeping onto her face, opened her mouth to speak, only to be distracted as the double doors, set subtly into the back of the room, swung open. Her grin changed from its mischievous beginnings into one of happiness...and quickly into one of confusion.
"Mark, what are you wearing?" Ellie asked.
"And hello to you too, Ellie!" Frank replied chirpily. "Yes, we're good thanks, how are things back at the homestead?"
Ellie ignored him entirely, eyes still fixed on the sabre. Manny, curiosity piqued, joined her in ogling.
"Yeah, yeah, all of that...but why are you wearing that?" Manny quizzed.
"Sam told us to," Mark replied. "Oh, and just as a heads up, Frank may or may not have just kicked up a storm."
Both mammoths switched their gaze onto Frank, who had plumped himself onto a sofa. Manny arched his eyebrow, amazed at how the human managed to rid himself of his tie, jacket and hat, grabbed himself a cup of tea, and proceeded to look nonchalant in the space of a few seconds.
"What did you do this time?" Manny asked.
Frank shrugged, taking a sip from his tea.
"No doubt a certain pissed off Secretary General is going to swoop in and say it in a moment anyway, so why repeat the inevitable?"
"You know, your habit of not answering a question got boring a long time ago," Manny replied. He turned to Mark, gesturing towards the human. "What did he do?"
Mark glanced down briefly, raising the mammoth's suspicions it really was a storm that had been kicked up.
"Frank...er..." Mark began. "Well, it seems that...ah...only a handful of people here know we even exist."
"Only a handful of people in here seem to realise I exist!" Sid piped up.
"And?" Ellie quizzed, as she shot a mischievous glance at Manny. Finally, he glanced over at Sid, realised what the glance was about, and grinned back at Ellie.
I guess pretending that we were ignoring him is better than telling him we didn't realise he was there, he concluded.
"Well, ah, now a few hundred people know..." Mark stated. "Frank told an entire court he was a member of our herd, the court went crazy, and Sam is, well, annoyed."
"You could say that."
Everyone but Frank turned. No one, it seemed - least of all Manny - expected to see such a fiery, angry look in Sam's eyes. Yet fiery she was, and her stare focussed solely on Frank. Manny stood back, half expecting the human to burst into flames from the stare alone. The human merely opted to sit down and pour himself some tea.
"Brilliant performance out there, Frank," She growled. "Now there's no stopping it; the presence of the Guardians here is going to leak. Well done, big brother, well done. Especially seeing as I gave you instructions not to mention it."
Frank's gaze hardened, placing his cup onto the nearest table forcefully.
"Huh, yeah, I did hear that in passing," He snapped quietly. "I also remember giving you instructions about letting us know how Diego is doing regularly. And if anything happens to him or his leg."
Just the mention of Diego's name sent Manny's eyes dancing between the two humans.
"What?" He exclaimed. "What did I miss?"
"A good question Manny," Frank growled, rising to his feet. "And what exactly did we miss, little sister? Oh, maybe the fact that Diego has had to have his leg amputated."
"WHAT?" Manny, Ellie, Sid and Mark said in unison. Sam blinked; though her exterior hadn't changed, her eyes were a study of panic.
"How did you know that?" She replied quickly.
"You mean it's true?" Manny barked. "Why didn't you tell us?"
"It happened less than an hour ago!" Sam said hurriedly. "There just wasn't the-"
"Wasn't the what? The time?" Frank stated angrily. "And I knew because Claire was in the court room crying. She doesn't know many people here, and any news from home would have gotten to all of us, which leaves just one thing it could have been; it was someone she knew and cared about who was here. I've seen you and James today, and if it were Terry it would have been you whose eyes were watery. Thus Diego. Thank you for confirming that for me. Any other things about us that are on a need-to-know basis? That would be very us-"
"Don't dare lecture me on the right to know," Sam spat, fire once more flaring in her eyes. "You have just put a whole load of good people in danger, and yourselves! Are you really such a moron that you don't understand why we've kept your identities a secret? Or that fact you even exist a secret? All it takes is one psycho, one loner, one idiot with a gun who thinks he hears God, and then what? So don't DARE pull that one on m-"
A gentle, but firm, rap on the door broke everyone out of the argument. Manny glanced over at the human woman standing in the doorway, wincing as he realised the door had been open.
Great, he thought, everyone just heard that.
To his surprise, Mark, Frank and Sam all immediately bolted upright, shock registering on their faces.
"Your honour!" Sam exclaimed, tidying away a loose strand of hair behind her ear. "This is an unexpected pleasure!"
The woman levelled a stern stare at Sam.
"I agree with the good Captain here," She stated. "There are many things that are need-to-know about this case. Let's begin with how a Biblical character came to be standing in my courtroom today."
As her stare swept the room, Manny could see the faintest smile creep across her face.
"Or how it would appear that I'm standing in a room full of them, even as we speak," She added, the smile growing with every word. "Last thing I expected when accepting this hearing was...this. Am I to expect Moses and Abraham at these proceedings as well?"
"That would take some explaining, your honour," Sam replied, quickly checking her watch. "And I'm not sure we have the time to explain it properly."
The woman checked her watch, allowing a genuine smile.
"By my reckoning, we have at least five hours until the court reconvenes," She said. "And suddenly I feel in the mood for a long story."
Manny and Frank glanced at each other,
"With respect, your honour, a member of our her- our family, is in hospital," Frank said. "And we're going to see him. The court session later isn't really good for us."
Her smile disappeared, replaced by understanding. She nodded slightly,
"I understand," She replied. "And the Secretary General here suggested this might happen, so I took the precaution of postponing it till tomorrow afternoon," She replied. She moved between the herd, all eyes fixed on her as she sat onto a sofa. "Go see your family member; I'll hear your story in the morning."
Manny smiled at the woman,
"Thank you," He said softly. He glanced at Sam intently. "Where is he?"
"He's here," She stated. "In the infirmary. Floor B7."
He nodded, glanced at everyone else, and ran for the door.
The judge watched as the mass of people exited, waiting until they were no longer visible before seating herself, looking keenly at Sam. She helped herself to the nearest available drink, mildly surprised to find it to be whiskey.
Ah well, at least it's noon, she decided. She poured herself a drink and leant back, staring.
"In the mean time, Secretary General," She said, motioning towards the sofa opposite. "Would you be so kind as to let me know what the hell I've signed up for?"
End of Chapter 1
Lo! A courtroom drama in the Ice Age community? Whatever next? A talking wolf!
Ha, no; everyone knows wolves can't talk... :P
I was planning on having this chapter be longer, but that felt like an endpoint. Fear not, though; the second chapter is well under way, so it shouldn't be too long to wait!
But before you move along, what did you think of this? Let me know by clicking on that delicious button below this text. Go on, you know you want to; that button would be the finest cuisine were it food, so dig in!
...I don't know why the A/Ns for this chapter are so odd...ah well, just roll with it I suppose!
Till chapter 2
NOTE: Some of you might highlight that I made an error with Manny concluding that only he and Ellie were in Sam's office...and then Sid speaks. That was entirely intentional; I was writing it from Manny's perspective after all :P